Rachel Leingang Arizona Republic
(CNT) City News Talk #arizona
Tuesday’s presidential election brings the potential that Arizona, once seen as a safe bet for Republicans, could vote for Democratic candidate Joe Biden over President Donald Trump.
The last presidential election saw Arizona on the verge of competitive for Democrats. Trump’s margins in his 2016 victory in Arizona were much thinner than the Republicans before him. He carried the state by about 3.5 points.
The state last voted for a Democratic president in 1996, when Bill Clinton won the state and reelection as president. Before that, it had not voted for a Democrat since 1948, when President Harry Truman carried Arizona.
The ballot counting comes after a whirlwind of activity as both campaigns worked to capture Arizonans’ votes.
For about two months leading up to Election Day, and especially in the final few weeks, Arizonans saw regular visits from the Trump campaign, including the president and Vice President Mike Pence multiple times. Biden and running mate Sen. Kamala Harris of California visited Arizona in person in October, and campaign surrogates, including Cher, held events here or online geared toward the state’s voters.
This is what it’s like to be a swing state, the next step in Arizona’s evolution to a purple state seen as in play for both parties at the highest level.
Polls repeatedly showed Arizona in play for Biden. The Trump campaign’s frequent visits, sometimes one every day or two in the final weeks before Election Day, suggested the president’s team understood the need to fight for Arizonans’ votes.
Voters turned out on golf carts, in caravans, at events and at the polls this year to support their preferred candidate. They showed up at rallies. They knocked doors, made phone calls, sent text messages. Airwaves filled with constant, expensive campaign ads.
Many shared that, while occasionally annoying, the fact that the presidential candidates spent so much time and money courting their votes made them feel like their votes really mattered.
“It kind of makes you feel a little bit more important, seeing them put money into your state and knowing that you’re not like a Republican in California or a Democrat in North Dakota, where your vote doesn’t matter,” Dalton Ries, a 29-year-old Gilbert resident and independent voter, said in October, as campaigns were constantly pinging his phone.
What campaigning in Arizona was like
Trump’s campaign visits in Arizona sought to rally support with his base at times, and at other times sought to expand or solidify his standing with specific groups, including Latinos, veterans and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The campaign opened several Latinos for Trump community offices in the state, which served as headquarters for on-the-ground campaigning.
Some prominent Latter-day Saints broke with the Republican Party and sided with Biden, saying their faith didn’t align with the president’s rhetoric.
Some veterans saw Trump’s comments about people who have served as offensive and decided not to vote for him. Cindy McCain, the widow of the late U.S. Sen. John McCain, the Republican Party’s 2008 presidential nominee, notably endorsed Biden after longstanding animosity between the McCains and Trump. Trump had, more than once, denigrated McCain’s military service.
Both Trump and Biden counted prominent Arizonans as supporters and surrogates. During Trump’s visits to the state, U.S. Sen. Martha McSally and Gov. Doug Ducey often stood by his side. One of Biden’s key surrogates became Democratic U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego.