While the basement strategy arguably worked for President Joe Biden in 2020, Democrat Katie Hobbs may not see the same success with laying low in the Arizona gubernatorial race.
Hobbs is the incumbent secretary of state running against Republican Kari Lake, who has aggressively been out on the campaign trail making her case to voters.
Those who have been following my work closely over the past few months know that I was skeptical of Lake’s strategy during the primary, and a major factor had to do with concerns about electability in the general election. The race is definitely still neck and neck, but it’s clear that Lake has a better shot at winning the governor’s office than many of us that cover Arizona politics originally thought.
Her likelihood to win as of right now lies largely on the fact that Hobbs has refused to debate and has minimized her public appearances. Republicans have viewed it as cowardice, and Democrats have either found her resistance to debate justified or poorly calculated.
As Nick Arama wrote, Hobbs’s appearance on “Face the Nation” made her case not to debate look even worse, as she said at this point her schedule would not permit it anyways.
“I’m focused on the race here in Arizona and the needs of Arizonans,” Hobbs smirked. “It’s a race between myself and Kari Lake. And the ideas we are bringing to the table.”
Hobbs is still doing town halls and the occasional interview, but those aren’t exactly serving the candidate well, either. While it’s hard to compete against a former television news anchor in terms of presentation, one would think a candidate would welcome a challenge if they believe their opponent is on the fringe.
Democrats who would like to see Lake lose probably feel similarly, and they would like to see the secretary of state put Lake on notice in front of a large audience.
She is also running the risk of snubbing Hispanic voters as well, who are being closely watched for political realignment. Hobbs did not attend a Hispanic town hall event in Phoenix last week, and Lake got a photo-op next to her empty podium.
Meanwhile, when she did a televised town hall with Univision and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Forum, anchor León Krauze asked Hobbs about a lesson she learned from the Hispanic community, according to The Daily Caller.
“Today, today you said that growing up in Arizona, you have seen and heard how impactful the migrant community, talking about the Hispanic community, has been. Let me ask you, how has it impacted you personally? What have you learned — specifically learned — from the Latino community?,” Krauze asked.
To which Hobbs replied:
“Oh, that’s a great question. Um, I don’t necessarily think about it that way, in those terms. I think I really value my relationships across the board with different folks, and I learn all the time from people in my life. My sister-in-law, she is Latino and her family… I love hanging out with them and practicing my español – un piquito. So, but yeah, I mean, I just, it’s… I’ve learned so much from her family, but I think it’s really hard to separate out Arizona and subtract Latino culture because it’s so much a part of who we are as a state, and I — Arizona wouldn’t be Arizona without the… what the Latino community brings,” Hobbs said.
When she stumbled, Krauze doubled down:
“So there is not one specific lesson you can share… other than the español… it’s one-third of the state,” Krauze said.
And it got worse:
“Uh, yes absolutely. I mean I think there’s, there’s many lessons: the, the emphasis on, uh, family values, uh, hard work, uh. Those are something that I value in my own life and you know, uh, it’s something that I… that I respect,” Hobbs said.
The difference between Biden and Hobbs is that Hobbs is the officeholder in this election cycle, whereas Biden could let former President Donald Trump roam free on both the campaign trail and in the White House. The laying low method does not work well when a candidate is currently an elected official, as the public expects more from them.
Hobbs could have figured this out by now, but it may be too late for her to turn this ship around.