Diary

The Electoral Map: Arizona

Besides the presidential and a Senatorial race, there are three competitive House races.  Republicans have the current advantage, 5-4, in their House delegation.  One Democratic-held district- the 3rd- has no GOP challenger.  Matt Salmon, a Republican, is retiring from the 5th but the district is sufficiently red that it should remain in GOP hands.  That leaves only the 1st, 2nd and 9th Districts of interest this year.

The 1st is being vacated by Democrat Anne Kirkpatrick who is running against John McCain in the Senate race.  The 1st is a large sprawling district in the eastern part of the state familiar to many Phoenix area residents who vacation in this area.  Democratic registration outpaces that of Republicans by 6% in the district, but it leans somewhat conservative as proven by Romney’s narrow victory over Obama here in 2012.  Democrats believe they have the ideal candidate in Tom O’Halleran, considered to be a somewhat conservative Democrat.  In fact, he is a former Republican state senator turned independent turned Democrat (a less orange Charlie Crist).

In reality, he is a liberal Republican which is a different political animal than a conservative Democrat.  He is running against Pinal County sheriff Paul Babeu who enters the race with some past baggage.  First, there are the allegations against some questionable disciplinary practices at a private school he helped run in Massachusetts that prompted a state investigation.  No charges were brought and Babeu totes around a 1,700 page document proving that.  In 2012, he had to drop out of a race after a former gay lover who happened to be an illegal Mexican immigrant outed him.  This year, there are allegations that he frequented a gay dating website that included some rather pornographic images.

Unlike the 2nd where Republican Martha McSally walks a political tightrope in an equally competitive district, neither Babeu nor O’Halleran really fit the 1st District.  Polls are hard to come by here with each party claiming an advantage.  And although Arizona is ground zero in the immigration debate, Obama’s policy towards coal is dominating the conversation with O’Halleran positing an amorphous policy.  Regardless of who wins here, they likely will not hold the seat for very long and will be a huge target come 2018.

In the 2nd, Martha McSally, a Republican has broken with some of the more conservative members of the GOP contingent from Arizona in Washington.  The Second is also a very competitive district.  After losing to Democrat Ron Barber in 2012 by a narrow margin, she came back to defeat him by an even more narrow margin in 2014.  As a freshman Republican in a swing district, the Democrats are running Matt Heinze who is portraying himself as a bipartisan alternative.  Polls from the Second show McSally with a lead while both candidates have distanced themselves from the top of the ticket.  In one GOP poll, McSally held a comfortable 19 point lead over her rival while Trump led by a more precarious 5 points.

The 9th- based in the Phoenix area- would seem like a good target for the GOP.  The seat is held by Krysten Sinema, a Democrat, with a strange past.  However, after winning this seat in 2012, she had proven herself a deft politician and voters returned her to Congress in 2014 by a comfortable margin.  Her opponent this year will be Dave Giles.  Then, she defeated Wendy Rogers by 13 points after a narrow 2 point victory in 2012.

In the Senate race, incumbent John McCain faced perhaps his best challenger of his career in the form of the more centrist Democrat Anne Kirkpatrick.  First, he had to dispatch Kelli Ward who ran against McCain from the right in the GOP primary.  Actually, McCain operatives in Arizona laid the groundwork by purging Tea Party Republicans from leadership ranks at the precinct level.  This, coupled with some Ward baggage and campaign miscues, translated into an easy McCain primary victory.  The expected primary damage Democrats were counting on to soften McCain for the general election never materialized.

And prior to that primary, McCain and Kirkpatrick were running neck and neck in the polls.  Since then, McCain has opened up a rather large lead on his rival and seems to have all the momentum heading into Election Day.  Although his victory may not be in the double digits as recent polls suggest, it should be comfortable enough.  What was once a key Senate race has basically dropped off the map.

In the presidential race, Donald Trump promised to expand the electoral map.  Unfortunately, he has but in favor of the Democrats.  Besides the noted problems in Utah and some other surprise states (Georgia, Kansas) where Trump is performing below historical standards, the situation is most acute in Arizona.  Here, Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, who is polling at 10% in some areas, may directly hurt Trump more than Clinton.  Perhaps that is why we are seeing him having difficulty in polls thus far.

Arizona has unnecessarily become a swing state with Donald Trump at the top of the ticket.  This writer would have to give him their 11 electoral votes at this time, but it is not set in stone.  If any traditional red state has the potential to tilt towards Clinton on Election Day, it is Arizona.

Thus, I am giving Trump Arizona’s 11 electoral votes with a 1-3 point victory which is way too close by Arizona standards.  McCain should win reelection for what would likely be his last term, and working under that worst-case scenario paradigm, the GOP will lose an opportunity to pick up a seat in the First.

At the end of this analysis, Clinton leads in the electoral vote count 249-191.  The Senate remains tied 50-50, and in the House the GOP leads 238-197.

Next: Iowa