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With John McCain’s nomination as the official Republican nominee for President the assumption is that at least one state – Arizona – is guaranteed to vote for him. Conventional wisdom holds that Arizona is a red state and given our voting record, rightly so. Arizona has voted Republican (as a state) for the last 20+ years.
However, the statistics paint a different picture. I’d like to propose that it’s entirely possible that John McCain loses Arizona come this November 4th, especially if Barack Obama and the Democrats focus attention on the state. Arizona has consistently been less GOP friendly than the general discourse suggests. In fact I’d go so far as to argue, that a large part of the reason it’s still a predominantly Red state is gross misconception among Democrats and Independents. Most assume that Arizona is Red, their vote is pointless, and as a result they don’t bother to vote at all. The catch is, voting registration numbers and recent voting behavior suggest something altogether different. For example, look at the re-election and support for Governor Janet Napolitano, a Democrat. Also, consider conservative Republican J.D. Hayworth‘s recent loss to Democrat Harry Mitchell.
According to the Arizona Secretary of State’s website September 2008 registered voter numbers are as follows:
- Active Republicans – 1,061,591
- Active Democrats – 957,859
- Active Independents (Other) – 759,159
- Active Libertarians – 17,278
- Active Green Party – 3,467
- Total Active State Voting Population: 2,799,390
- Inactive Independents (other) – 177,830
- Inactive Democrats – 151,777
- Inactive Republicans – 158,887
- Inactive Libertarians – 5,160
- Inactive Green – 1,326
- Total Inactive State Voting Population: 494,980
In looking at these figures what jumps out is that there are 1.6 Democrats & Independents (1,717,018) for every 1 Republican and Libertarian (1,078,869). This is potentially deceptive as Libertarians and Independents typically are not loyal to either party. Polls from the 2006 election found that “The independent voters surveyed said they plan to support Democratic candidates over Republicans by roughly 2 to 1” [WSJ] which is on-par with other information I’ve seen. Especially when one takes into account that a large portion of the more liberal youth demographic trends towards registering as Independents. Also potentially significant is the disproportionately high number (177,000) of inactive independent voters in the state that may play a role in this election.
The Independent vote has historically been very friendly towards McCain, embracing his reputation as a Maverick. As a moderate, McCain enjoyed heavy support from Independent and Democrat voters in Arizona, which largely offset the mixed support he historically has had from his own party.
Fact: In the 2008 primary John McCain received the lowest percentage of support from his own state. Obama won 65% of Illinois, Clinton won 57% of New York, Huckabee won 60% of Arkansas, Romney won 51% of Massachusetts, while McCain only took home 47% of the votes in the Arizona Republican Primary. [Source Dems, Reps].
This information begs the questions: Will Independents and Libertarians support John McCain? A question that largely hinges on their perception of him. With the credibility of the Straight Talk Express brand imploding in September and his image as a Maverick reformer disintegrating, it’s entirely possible that his shift to the far right on policies, and the selection of Sarah Palin as running mate will cost him Arizona. Ironically, these voters are his core base and the people who know him best.
Thanks for reading and, as always, I’d love to hear your thoughts – any additional information/research you have found, or of any additional non-partisan resources that might help voters make an educated decision.