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Arizona Dreaming

Arizona State University and KAET-TV have just released a new poll of RVs in Arizona. And here's the shocker: Bush is ahead of Kerry by only 3 points, 41-38, even with Nader in the question and drawing 3 percent. It's bad for Bush that's it's so close. And it's bad for Bush that he's drawing only 41 percent as the incumbent; undecideds usually break heavily for the challenger.

How did this red state get into play, when it's only voted once for the Democratic candidate since 1948? Well, that one time wasn't so long ago--1996--and the fact is that many factors are conspiring to turn Arizona from red to blue. It's no longer the state it was when Barry Goldwater was its dominant politician. Instead, it elected a popular and dynamic Democratic governor, Janet Napolitano, in the very Republican year of 2002 and it seems headed in a direction very different from that of the Republican hard right conservatives who have dominated the state's politics for many years (and are now busily isolating themselves from the Arizona mainstream; see this post by Mark Schmitt).

George Will summarizes some of the relevant changes in Arizona in a recent column, including urbanization, in-migration and the growth of the Hispanic population, which went from 19 to 25 percent of the state in the 1990's.

The two key counties to watch in Arizona are Pima County (Tucson) and Maricopa County (Phoenix). Democrats have done particularly well in Pima, which Gore carried by 8 points in the 2000 election. But the Democrats have also benefitted from a continuing pro-Democratic trend in Maricopa county, the largest county in Arizona and the county with the largest growth in the nation. In 1988, Bush senior carried Maricopa by a 65 to 34 percent margin; in Ď00, his sonís margin was down to just 53-43, a swing of 21 points toward the Democrats.

These trends continued in the 2002 gubernatorial election with Democrat Janet Napolitano carrying Pima county by 14 points and only losing Maricopa narrowly to Republican Matt Salmon by 2 points.

Maricopa's pro-Democratic trend seems particularly tied to the growth of its Hispanic population. In the 1990's, the share of Hispanics in Maricopa went up about a point a year, while the white share went down about a point a year. Given that Arizona Hispanics vote unusually heavily Democratic, like southwestern Hispanics in general, that is highly significant. Democracy Corps' recent poll of Hispanics, in fact, had Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada Hispanics voting Democratic by 33 points, 10 points more than among Hispanics nationwide.

Sounds like the stage is set for an Arizona surprise this November.

Note: this post corrects an earlier version where Arizona didn't get credit for voting for Truman, FDR, etc.; sorry Arizona.


Hope AZ does swing to the Dems. McCain's increasing jabs on the administration's chin could be a factor as well.

On the other hand, the more close races I see, the more pissed-off I get at Nader. I hope someone gets through to him to drop out or he sees the light himself. Without Nader in the mix, this election could become a rout.

As someone who grew up in Arizona, I find that one of the markers for outsiders is that they consistently misspell "Tucson."

Then again, there's that other very pleasant mid-size Southwestern city, Albuquerque, where officials joke that the city motto is "We Can't Spell It, Either"...

I had a general question about the polls that are coming out right now.

In many polls, both candidates (even with Nader in the race) are polling below 50% and sometimes (as with Arizona) well below 50%. Is this normal for a race this far out from election day, or does it show a greater apathy among voters about the candidates (or the parties in general). If it is general apathy, are there any data that indicate how this trend might be reversed?

How did this red state get into play, when it's only voted for the Democratic candidate once in its 92 year history of a state.

Arizona voted for Wilson twice and FDR all 4 times.

Mr. Teixeira,

In addition to the recent corrective posting by Jared, I would like to add that Arizona also voted for Harry Truman in 1948. This website is a great resource for progressive politics. Thanks!


Is this the poll that had a shockingly high amount of undecideds? That usually leads to questioning the validity of the poll.

Given the voters tendency to elect far-righters to the state legislature (even if part of that is due to the district maps), and how unlikely that is to change within the next few years, and given Kerry's inability to connect with most voters, I'm not sure if I can see him doing well in Arizona. He isn't a straight-talker like McCain or Goldwater. I do think that Teresa would probably be popular in AZ, so maybe she can help stump for votes.

Places like Colorado and Arizona are only going to break free with a truly strong Democratic candidate. Kerry, so far, isn't quite it.

New poll out in Wisconsin shows Bush ahead 50-38. I know this poll is WAY off track.

For us regular people who read your site, can you point us to some info proving that undecides usually break for the challenger? You've said this before, but I'd just like some documentation.

Another factor that may account for the poor numbers for Dubya: Much of the economic growth around Phoenix is due to high tech companies. High tech workers are increasingly concerned about the outsourcing of tech jobs.

Does economic growth in the tech sector contribute to outsourcing? Because, if it does, then that's just plain ironic: a better economy hurting Bush.

Tho not news to many DonkeyRising readers (and while not DIRECTLY related to the good news for Kerry from AZ), for those few yet to discover it: check out the "D-Bunker" (http://blog.johnkerry.com/dbunker/all.html) pages on Kerry's site. As a blogger (http://www.isebrand.com), I've only recently started to use D-Bunker as a resource; but, I'm mostly very impressed with its content.

I've enjoyed as much as most progressives lamenting all the things I don't like about Kerry's public statements or campaign decisions...the "Gored" effect, etc.

But, increasingly such laments from Democrats and pro-Kerry Greens sound to me like so much self-indulgent whining. It's time to go beyond just bitching about Bush (or Kerry) and start pitching for the only candidate who can defeat Club Shrub's regime.

If you have your own blog or newsgroup, contemplate how you might be able to be even more "pro-Kerry." Being "anti-Bush" isn't enough. (And I'm preaching as much to myself and anyone.)