Will Arizona Leave McCain Seeing Blue This November?

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Posted on / by Alex Berger

Listen to this post:

Audio Transcript: Arizona Turning Blue

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

  • 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

  • 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.

I encourage you all to do your research through non-partisan fact checking organizations.  I highly recommend www.factcheck.org and www.politifact.com.

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.

Alex Berger

I am a travel blogger and photographer. I also am involved in academic research into the study abroad and backpacker communities.

18 Comments

  • Philippe Best
    September 17, 2008

    Alex,
    Nice job taking a look at raw numbers. It does get tricky, however, with those independent voters because, in AZ anyway, my hunch is they lean to the right. That being said, I feel like generally people feel at the mercy of history and statistics and could be freed from this by being shown the POSSIBILITY of a statewide political shift that then translates into reality. I feel like this is one of those situations where people need to be told in essence that things don’t have to be THIS way, that they can be different. Not having lived in AZ for 4 years now, I don’t know what kind of outreach is being done by Dems to draw in the Independent, Green, and Libertarian votes. I would hope a great deal is being done. These things can be sort of viral, so spread the word.

    All in all, nice work.

    Reply
  • Philippe Best
    September 17, 2008

    Alex,
    Nice job taking a look at raw numbers. It does get tricky, however, with those independent voters because, in AZ anyway, my hunch is they lean to the right. That being said, I feel like generally people feel at the mercy of history and statistics and could be freed from this by being shown the POSSIBILITY of a statewide political shift that then translates into reality. I feel like this is one of those situations where people need to be told in essence that things don’t have to be THIS way, that they can be different. Not having lived in AZ for 4 years now, I don’t know what kind of outreach is being done by Dems to draw in the Independent, Green, and Libertarian votes. I would hope a great deal is being done. These things can be sort of viral, so spread the word.

    All in all, nice work.

    Reply
  • Katy Chapman
    September 19, 2008

    Very nice article, Alex! Thank you for sharing it with me. 🙂

    Reply
  • Katy Chapman
    September 19, 2008

    Very nice article, Alex! Thank you for sharing it with me. 🙂

    Reply
  • Kyle
    September 27, 2008

    Alex,

    While I agree that this year Arizona could and probably will lean more towards the Democrats than in the past, I still think McCain will take the State. First, Napolitano doesn’t seem like a Democrat. On the national scale I believe that the Democratic Party has a PR problem, it’s something that the Republicans have exploited to their advantage and will continue to do so. At the state level I don’t believe their perception is as polarizing, and Napolitano has capitalized on that. Second, we have to remember that two years ago J.D. Hayworth was wrapped up in the Abramoff scandal and was kneecapped by the Arizona Republic. So I believe there are some extenuating circumstances that make these examples some what extraordinary and unreliable. As far as McCain having the lowest margin of victory from his home state, I again do no think this will stand in the general election. Romney drew the Mormon vote during the campaign and while it is an assumption we can probably count on those voters to side with McCain as opposed to Obama, and when we account for this his margin of victory goes up.

    The Obama campaign would be smart to focus on Southern and Northern Arizona, they lean more to the left, and it is an in road to the state. However, in order to win the state the majority Maricopa County has to carried. I don’t think this election will see a change in color, but if the Democratic Party can build strong operations in the parts of the state that are more sympathetic to its cause then maybe in the next couple of election cycles we will see more parts of Maricopa County vote Democrat and a paradigm shift in the voting tendencies of the state. However, this is years out and would depend greatly on an influx of Liberals moving to the state and Hispanics siding with the Dems.

    Reply
  • Kyle
    September 26, 2008

    Alex,

    While I agree that this year Arizona could and probably will lean more towards the Democrats than in the past, I still think McCain will take the State. First, Napolitano doesn’t seem like a Democrat. On the national scale I believe that the Democratic Party has a PR problem, it’s something that the Republicans have exploited to their advantage and will continue to do so. At the state level I don’t believe their perception is as polarizing, and Napolitano has capitalized on that. Second, we have to remember that two years ago J.D. Hayworth was wrapped up in the Abramoff scandal and was kneecapped by the Arizona Republic. So I believe there are some extenuating circumstances that make these examples some what extraordinary and unreliable. As far as McCain having the lowest margin of victory from his home state, I again do no think this will stand in the general election. Romney drew the Mormon vote during the campaign and while it is an assumption we can probably count on those voters to side with McCain as opposed to Obama, and when we account for this his margin of victory goes up.

    The Obama campaign would be smart to focus on Southern and Northern Arizona, they lean more to the left, and it is an in road to the state. However, in order to win the state the majority Maricopa County has to carried. I don’t think this election will see a change in color, but if the Democratic Party can build strong operations in the parts of the state that are more sympathetic to its cause then maybe in the next couple of election cycles we will see more parts of Maricopa County vote Democrat and a paradigm shift in the voting tendencies of the state. However, this is years out and would depend greatly on an influx of Liberals moving to the state and Hispanics siding with the Dems.

    Reply
  • Linda
    October 4, 2008

    Very nice post, Alex.

    Another thing to consider is that a growing number of Californians are moving to Arizona – specifically the Phoenix metropolitan area – thus increasing the “blueness” factor of the state.

    Reply
  • Linda
    October 4, 2008

    Very nice post, Alex.

    Another thing to consider is that a growing number of Californians are moving to Arizona – specifically the Phoenix metropolitan area – thus increasing the “blueness” factor of the state.

    Reply
  • Alex Berger
    October 4, 2008

    Linda! Excellent point.

    Kyle – fantastic thoughts!

    Reply
  • Alex Berger
    October 4, 2008

    Linda! Excellent point.

    Kyle – fantastic thoughts!

    Reply
  • Jason Stewart
    October 10, 2008

    you seriously think factcheck isn’t biased?

    Reply
  • Jason Stewart
    October 10, 2008

    you seriously think factcheck isn’t biased?

    Reply
  • Alex Berger
    October 10, 2008

    Key word: Non-partisan. Further, as far as political fact checking goes? The two listed are two of the best/most even handed available to the average voter.

    Reply
  • Alex Berger
    October 10, 2008

    Key word: Non-partisan. Further, as far as political fact checking goes? The two listed are two of the best/most even handed available to the average voter.

    Reply
  • Jason Stewart
    October 13, 2008

    last I checked the NRA was listed as a nonpartisan group. Factcheck might be nonpartisan, but that doesn’t mean it’s balanced, or unbiased, much like the NRA. haven’t read much from politifact, I’ll have to check it out.

    Reply
  • Jason Stewart
    October 13, 2008

    last I checked the NRA was listed as a nonpartisan group. Factcheck might be nonpartisan, but that doesn’t mean it’s balanced, or unbiased, much like the NRA. haven’t read much from politifact, I’ll have to check it out.

    Reply
  • Alex Berger
    October 13, 2008

    1. There’s a big difference between a non-partisan organization set to lobby for a specific agenda and a non-partisan organization who’s specific charter is the non-partisan fact checking of political claims.

    2. Look at the debate coverage etc. they’re just as hard on Obama as they are on McCain. The same goes for Politifact.com

    3. Factcheck has been found credible enough for use by a number of major publications. One of their spokespeople was on NPR the other day, they’re mentioned and cited in most major news publications etc.

    If you’ve found a better resource for non-partisan fact checking please share it. Worst case scenario you might have to actually spend some time researching the citations used in the fact-checking summaries which both sites typically document.

    Reply
  • Alex Berger
    October 13, 2008

    1. There’s a big difference between a non-partisan organization set to lobby for a specific agenda and a non-partisan organization who’s specific charter is the non-partisan fact checking of political claims.

    2. Look at the debate coverage etc. they’re just as hard on Obama as they are on McCain. The same goes for Politifact.com

    3. Factcheck has been found credible enough for use by a number of major publications. One of their spokespeople was on NPR the other day, they’re mentioned and cited in most major news publications etc.

    If you’ve found a better resource for non-partisan fact checking please share it. Worst case scenario you might have to actually spend some time researching the citations used in the fact-checking summaries which both sites typically document.

    Reply

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