Does Obama Stand a Chance in Arizona?
Why His Campaign is Setting up Shop in McCain Territory
Although Arizona has been considered a battleground state for years, it’s gone red in recent presidential elections (Bill Clinton carried the state in 1996, the last Democrat to do so). But because the Hispanic population in Arizona has grown so much that Latinos now comprise a third of the state and 19% of the voting age population, President Obama isn’t counting Arizona out. On the contrary, his campaign has opened offices in Phoenix, Tucson and Flagstaff, the New York Times reports.
The hope is that Hispanic voters, who’ve mobilized in the wake of Arizona’s stringent anti-illegal immigration law, SB 1070, will be more motivated to vote in the presidential election than ever before. Already, Latinos have begun to flex their political muscle in Arizona, helping to oust Russell Pearce in a recall election three weeks ago. Pearce was the Republican state senator who sponsored SB 1070. Latino voters in Phoenix also played a pivotal role in recently getting a Hispanic firefighter elected to city council. Latinos nationwide are also angry that Republicans have fought efforts to put undocumented students on the path to citizenship via the Dream Act, of which President Obama has been an advocate.
Although political experts consider President Obama a long shot for Arizona, his supporters point out that he did carry North Carolina in 2008, another battleground state that’s proven more Republican friendly in recent elections. To boot, Obama didn’t do too badly in Arizona three years ago. He carried 45 percent of the vote there, despite the fact that his opponent, John McCain is an Arizonan. And Obama pulled that off without much legwork in the state prior to the election.
As Jim Messina, Obama’s campaign manager, told the Times, “Arizona is the one state in the country where we didn’t play hard in 2008.”
Evidently, that’s about to change.