By Recker McDowell —
Elizabeth Warren will be in Tempe for a Thursday ‘town hall’ at the Marquee Theater. It will be first of what could be an ample amount of Democratic presidential candidates landing in Arizona as they look to turn the state blue and against Donald Trump in 2020.
Democrats, of course, look to Kyrsten Sinema’s win over Martha McSally in the 2016 U.S. Senate race and statewide wins by Democrats Katie Hobbs (Secretary of State), Kathy Hoffman (Superintendent of Public Instruction) and Sandra Kennedy (Arizona Corporation Commission).
They see red-state Arizona in play against Trump in 2020 and perhaps following the now blue tint of Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico. Sinema’s narrow win over McSally was aided in part to ‘never-Trump’ Republicans who don’t like Trump’s fights with late Arizona Sen. John McCain.
Trump carried Arizona with 48.1 percent of the vote versus 44.6 percent for Hillary Clinton. Democrats hope not to be saddled with Clinton’s negatives this cycle. They also hope swing voters will be fatigued with Trump’s Twitter and other storms.
But Trump has his own cards to play in swing states such as Arizona, Florida and the Rust Belt. The economy continues to perform well at a macro level both via job numbers and the stock market.
There are concerns for consumers such as health care costs and student loan debts. Democrats did well with pressing on health care costs and coverage for pre-existing conditions in the 2018 midterms.
But overall, the economy, for now, is a bright spot for Trump.
Trump will also paint Democrats as progressive socialists hoping that message will play well for him in states like Arizona.
The problems at the border likely cut both ways for Trump and his Democratic rival. The detention camps and family separations energize Trump critics and Latino voters. Democrats hope they also turn more women voters against Trump. White women were key to Trump’s upset of Hillary Clinton in key swing states.
But Trump’s tough stance on the border and his tough rhetorical fights appeal to his older, white and Fox News loving base.
A Democratic focus on Arizona, and vote-rich metro Phoenix, also cuts different ways. Getting Trump to defend Arizona could result in his campaign putting less and time resources in other battleground states. Flipping Arizona against Trump would also most certainly mean a win for Democrat Mark Kelly over U.S. Sen. Martha McSally for McCain’s Senate seat. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey appointed McSally to McCain’s seat after her narrow loss to Sinema.
But Democrats must be leery of Arizona being a fools’ gold quest that takes away from their overall chances to beat Trump next year.
Republicans followed similar paths before 2016 hoping to carry Pennsylvania or New Mexico only to see those states stay blue. That changed with Trump versus Clinton in 2016 with the former carrying Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan.
Democratic strategists see enough purple hue in Arizona that will put some chips on the state. That will prompt visits from candidates such as Warren.
The question will be how many chips Democrats want to bet on Arizona and where the state’s 11 electoral votes fit in with Florida, Wisconsin and other battlegrounds and both sides math to get to the magic number of 270 to win.