By Recker McDowell
Maricopa County could be the national bellwether for the 2020 elections and whether Democrats can deny President Donald Trump a second term.
That could make the metro Phoenix the 2020 equivalent of previous bellwethers such as Florida’s Interstate 4 corridor between Tampa and Orlando and Macomb County, Michigan near Detroit.
Those regions have been key indicators to the state of presidential campaigns and the national political mood.
Now, it could be the bellwether turn for Phoenix and its suburbs.
Democrats see hope in turning Arizona against Trump in 2020. Trump carried the state over Hillary Clinton by 3.6 percentage points in 2016.
Kyrsten Sinema edged Martha McSally in the race for Jeff Flake’s U.S. Senate seat last year. Democrats Sandra Kennedy, Katie Hobbs and Kathy Hoffman won statewide race for an Arizona Corporation Commission seat, Secretary of State of Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Strong performances in Maricopa County propelled Sinema and the other Democrats, all women, to their narrow wins.
Red state Arizona isn’t so red — and neither is Maricopa County where Democrats govern Phoenix and Tempe.
McSally still ended up with a U.S. Senate seat after Gov. Doug Ducey appointed her to fill John McCain’s seat after his passing and an interim tenure by Jon Kyl.
A new poll this week from OH Predictive Insight shows McSally — a Trump ally and former Air Force fighter pilot — is another dogfight.
The OH poll shows McSally and presumptive Democratic challenger Mark Kelly in a statistical tie. McSally gets 45 percent vs. 44 percent for Kelly, a former astronaut, Space Shuttle commander and the husband of former congresswoman Gabby Giffords.
Democrats will put big money behind Kelly in the Senate race.
They will also look to leverage anti-Trump Republicans in states such as Arizona. McCain and Flake were two of Trump’s most ardent GOP critics in the 2016 race.
Trump’s feud with McCain has extended beyond the Arizona senator’s death last year. Democrats hope that will swell the ‘never-Trump’ crowd in battlegrounds including Arizona and metro Phoenix. Dems also won’t be as burdened with Hillary Clinton’s baggage but have overcome a still strong economy in Trump’s favor.
Trump still has his ardent base especially in Sun City and more conservative areas of the East Valley. If Trump is able to turn out his base of white working and lower middle class voters as well as Evangelicals it will show itself in the East Valley, West Valley and Pinal County suburbs.
But metro Phoenix has plenty of younger and Latino voters and Democrats have been able to carry Nevada and Colorado in recent presidential elections. They see the same potential in Arizona after Sinema’s win. A strong turnout from women, Millennials and Hispanics could swing Arizona against Trump.
The paths for both Trump and Democrats lead through vote-rich Maricopa County.