Every cycle, the Republican and Democratic parties try and juke each other out by suggesting an unwinnable race is winnable. The idea is to get the other party to divert precious campaign funds and resources from races that are actually competitive. Sometimes it works.
This year, Democrats are dreaming that President Obama can win Arizona in November.
“If you just close your eyes and look at the census numbers, look at the number of unregistered voters, look at how this is the only state in the country that didn’t have a primary or a contested general in 2008, so there was no organizing,” [Obama campaign manager Jim] Messina said as he ticked off the factors that work in their favor. “And look next door. Look at New Mexico, look at Colorado, look at California. All that stuff is going to come to Arizona. The question is, can we get it there in time? How expensive is it to do it?”
Democrats are also pointing to a recent poll by Arizona State’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy showing President Obama just two points behind Mitt Romney in the Grand Canyon State.
But Democrats shouldn’t get their hopes up. The director of the Morrison Institute for Public Policy, Dr. Bruce Merrill, is a go-to pollster for the Democratic Party and is constantly cited by the media whenever Democrats begin to see a flicker of hope in Barry Goldwater’s backyard. And the notion that Democrats can win Arizona rests on unsubstantiated assumptions about the state’s changing demographics — in particular, that Arizona Hispanics will turn out to vote in large numbers and vote heavily Democratic. But as Sean Trende notes, even as the U.S. Hispanic population has grown in recent years, the Hispanic share of the electorate has not.
The reality is that Arizona remains red cowboy country. Prior to 2010, Republicans controlled both houses of the Arizona Legislature, with an 18-12 advantage over Democrats in the Senate and 35-25 advantage in the House. In November 2010, Arizona Republicans gained three seats in the Senate and five seats in the House. Republicans also enjoy a large voter registration advantage in the state.
Plus, Romney might as well be a native Arizonan. During Arizona’s GOP primary, he won every county in the state, including urban areas like Phoenix, Flagstaff, Tucson and Yuma. The same magical poll showing Obama neck-and-neck with Romney noted that, “Among the 39 percent of the electorate who said they support what the tea party stands for, 75 percent said they would vote for Romney.” When you couple Romney’s broad Republican support with the fact that Mormons represent a strong voting bloc in the state, Romney’s advantages become even clearer.
Lastly, Democrats have a history of miscalculating in Arizona. In 2008, the year of the Obama-Democratic onslaught, pollsters and pundits predicted that Arizona’s 3rd Congressional District was winnable for Democrats. In response, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spent more money trying to unseat Republican incumbent John Shadegg than it spent on any other race in the country. At the time, Bruce Merrill said, “I think there could be a real surprise in the district. This is the first time it’s really had any significant competition, and [Democratic challenger Bob] Lord’s running a pretty aggressive campaign.” In the end, Shadegg won by over 12 points.
Democrats can hope away, but Arizona will go for Romney in November.
Thomas Grier is a third-year law student at The Ohio State University. A graduate of Arizona State University, Grier writes on constitutional law, politics and pro-growth policy.