Swing state preview: Arizona

By Luke Freedman in Sydney, Australia

25 May 2012

the Grand Canyon

Arizona is the only state that Obama lost in 2008 but could conceivably win in 2008. While this presidential election figures to be closer than the last one, a few other variables have swung in Obama’s favour. Arizonian John McCain will no longer be at the top of the ticket for Republicans, the proportion of Hispanics in the state is increasing rapidly, and, in light of these two changes, the Obama campaign is making a more serious effort to contend in the Grand Canyon state.

There is no doubt that the demographics of Arizona are shifting rapidly. Over the past decade “Latinos accounted for nearly half — 47.5 percent — of the state’s population growth, while minorities overall accounted for two-thirds.” Further, over 42 per cent of the state’s population is now non-white. The more these trends continue, the more competitive this traditionally Republican state will become.

Hispanics may support Obama over Romney by a two to one margin, but what ultimately matters is whether they vote on their preferences in November. In 2008, only 20 per cent of Arizona voters were minorities. The Democrats are hoping a few factors will increase turnout. First is Arizona’s controversial 2010 immigration law that received nearly unanimous support from Republicans in the state legislature. And second: Democrats will nominate a Hispanic for the open Arizona senate seat — former US Surgeon General Richard Carmona.

Still, a lot would have to go right for Obama to win here in 2012. Arizona hasn’t voted Democratic in a presidential election since Clinton cruised to re-election in 1996. And Romney should also get a boost from Arizona’s high Mormon population.

Most importantly, it’s hard to think of a scenario where the outcome of the state election actually determined who won the presidency. As Nate Silver points out, it’s almost inconceivable that Arizona would be the state that pushes Obama over the 270 electoral vote threshold. States don’t exist in a vacuum. If Obama wins Arizona, the political climate will be sufficiently favourable that he should win by larger margins in “swingier” states like Ohio. And if Obama wins Ohio, he wins re-election; but that’s the subject for another post.


Tags: Arizona, Barack Obama, Election 2012, Hispanics, Latinos, Mitt Romney, Swing State Preview

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