With the exception of Bill Clinton’s 1996 victory in the state, Arizona has voted for the Republican candidate in every presidential election since 1952. Mitt Romney won the state in 2012 by 9.5 percent, and Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton by 3.5 points in 2016.
For much of 2020, however, the majority of polls have shown Democratic nominee Joe Biden outperforming the president, often by a wide margin. This has led many political observers to conclude that the Grand Canyon State might be turning blue. At the very least, Arizona is now considered to be a battleground state.
A glance at the Real Clear Politics’ data summary shows that although Biden’s edge has fluctuated from an average of 5.7 percent to 2 percent, he has maintained a steady lead throughout the year.
But recent polls and a surprising observation about the direction of the former vice president’s strength in the state suggest the dynamics of this race may be changing.
On Tuesday, veteran pollster and FiveThirtyEight founder Nate Silver, who has a knack for predicting elections, noted that Biden’s support in the state has been “a bit lackluster lately.”
And with Biden’s Arizona polling being a bit lackluster lately, NC has really moved into a three-way tie with FL and AZ for what is Biden’s first line of defense if one of the Midwestern battlegrounds falls through.
— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) October 13, 2020
A New York Times/Siena College poll conducted Oct. 1-3 (shortly after the Sept. 29 debate) showed Biden with an 8-point advantage, a 1-point drop from a New York Times/Siena poll taken two weeks earlier.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted Sept. 29-Oct. 7 found the Democrat ahead by only 2 points.
And the newest Arizona poll, conducted Oct. 6-8 by the Trafalgar Group, admittedly a right-leaning pollster, showed Trump up by 4 points. The poll of 1,087 likely voters had a margin of error of 2.89 percent.
So, the Arizona polls are beginning to narrow. The question is: Can this be attributed to the tightening that naturally occurs as an election nears, or are the state’s residents beginning to sour on the Democratic nominee?
The gap has also tightened in the Arizona Senate race, where Democrat Mark Kelly — a former space shuttle commander and the husband of former Rep. Gabby Giffords — has held onto a wide lead over Republican Sen. Martha McSally since polling began in February.
The former military pilot was appointed in December 2018 to fill the seat of retiring GOP Sen. Jon Kyl.
On Oct. 4, McSally received a glowing endorsement from three former astronauts: Tom Stafford, Charlie Duke and Jack Lousma.
“But having ‘astronaut’ on your resume does not mean you’d be a good U.S. senator,” they wrote in The Arizona Republic. “Mark Kelly is hoping Arizonans are so impressed with his background that they ignore the fact that he’s supported radical gun control activists, that his plan for the eventual government takeover of health care would end Medicare as we know it, and that he’d vote to raise our taxes.”
Following this announcement, the Trafalgar Group conducted a poll (Oct. 6-9) showing Kelly’s lead had decreased to 2 points, which is within the margin of error and put the race back into toss-up territory.
An ABC News/Washington Post poll conducted Sept. 15-20 had Kelly ahead of McSally by just 1 point.
Meanwhile, a Fox News poll conducted Aug. 29-Sept. 1 gave the Democrat a formidable 17-point advantage.
I may be proven to be 100 percent wrong, but when I look at the current polls, both state and national, that continue to show the president dangerously behind, I keep coming back to what we’ve seen with our own eyes — repeatedly — over the last year and, perhaps most markedly, in the past week. Americans flock to Trump rallies, while Biden attracts only a handful of voters.
With weeks of careful preparation, Biden managed to avoid displaying his seemingly deteriorating mental capacity during his Sept. 29 showdown with Trump — but the strain of even his light campaign schedule is taking its toll, and the Democratic nominee’s struggles are becoming increasingly difficult to hide.
Last weekend alone, the soon-to-be-78-year-old slurred his way through opening remarks at a drive-in rally in Toledo, Ohio, and told a small handful of voters he was proud to be running for the Senate.
At another stop, he referred to Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, a Republican, as the “senator who was a Mormon, the governor.”
Compare this triumph:
— Brian Clowdus (@BrianClowdus) October 12, 2020
With this humiliation:
Finally, Biden’s refusal to reveal his position on court packing — adding justices to the Supreme Court in order to dilute the impact of those with differing political views — has become a strong headwind for him. Polls show Americans believe the court should continue to have nine justices as it has since 1869.
Trump must force his Democratic opponent to take a position on this issue.
If Biden disavows stacking the court, he risks losing the support of the Bernie Sanders wing of his party. If he confirms his plans to expand the court, he will lose some moderates and independents.
In fact, McSally would be wise to press her liberal rival on this issue as well.
We cannot forget that the polls predicted electoral doom for Donald Trump in 2016. Even many of his supporters never dreamed he would defeat Hillary Clinton.
I remain ever optimistic.
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