Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Arizona Shocker?

There's new polling out showing Barack Obama leading Mitt Romney in a general election trial in Arizona. Arizona? I've lost the link, but someone responded by expressing serious surprise, given that Democrats have only carried the Grand Canyon State once in recent years.

Let's step back a bit. First of all, it's too early for head-to-head polling to be meaningful. Second, that's especially true, as I've said many times, of state-level polling. It's safe to assume that any candidate who wins solidly at the national level will win the electoral college, and far too early to analyze how the EC will turn out in any potential very close contests.

My point about the link that I lost earlier, however, is that the key is to look at where states fall compared to other states. So Arizona of course was very Republican in 2008 with John McCain on the ballot, although even then it was only 18th most Republican state -- but a solid 15 points more Republican than the nation as a whole. In 2004, however, it was a lot closer, with George W. Bush winning by only 8 points better than he ran nationally, and it was just 6 points more Republican than the nation in 2000 and 1996. So ignoring 2008, it's certainly a Republican state, but hardly one of the more solid ones.

Indeed, Arizona was a bit more Democratic than Colorado in 1996 and 2000, although Colorado was slightly more Democratic in 2004. If the two states are similar, then it's certainly relevant that Colorado moved strongly away from the Republicans -- compared to the nation as a whole -- in 2008, when it was just slightly more Democratic than the national average for the first time in a while.

Granted, there's no way to know whether Arizona is in fact likely to shift blue along with Colorado, or for that matter whether the Rocky Mountain state just had a one-time blip for whatever reason in 2008. And the 2010 election cycle probably is evidence for divergence between two states, not convergence. Still, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Arizona move in that direction in 2012.

Whether that would put it in Obama's column, of course, will depend on how the overall national trend is pushing things.

So while I'm interested in my native state in particular, the real lessons here are: think about states in comparison to other states when you're thinking about the electoral college; it's the national trend that produces the state results, not the other way around; and it's still far too early for general election trial heats, anyway.


  1. Well at least a small part of "whatever reason" CO was more Democratic in '08 was likely the convention in Denver.

    I recall being told that convention location really doesn't matter and maybe it didn't, but I visited Denver a couple times in the months leading up to the event and it was really a big deal. So maybe there was a noticeable Obama bump from the big spectacle, with the speech in the stadium and everything.

  2. Yeah, the Obamabots are pushing Arizona and Georgia as takeaways, but I think they're dreaming. In about 60-80 days, Obama's final report card will come due, and it's certain to grade out as an election being fought entirely on his turf.

    Unless he does something dramatic, that is, but I don't see him doing anything dramatic.

  3. I wonder if Gabby Gifford's shooting has something to do with AZ polling more blue right now.

  4. I'd be inclined to chalk up a result like this to random error.
    According to RCP, Arizona's been polled three times now on the Romney/Obama matchup. The first two were in January and April (there's an earlier 2009 result in there, but that's REALLY old) by PPP (a Dem leaning firm). They found Romney up by 6 and by 4, respectively.
    Now, ususally, the Rocky Mountain Poll has a decent track record. But everyone can get a bad sample.
    Arizona is trending more Dem; it's increasingly Latino, and you can see a trend towards the Dems throughout the entire Mountain West and Southwest over the last 20 years (witness CO, NV, and NM).

    But I'm having a tough time believing that Dems are doing that well in AZ in 2011. Arizona is a near-perfect match for national unemployment conditions for a while, usually within a half-point, and right now, it's running about a quarter point higher. It's one of the epicenters of the housing crash, so folks are unhappy there, too.

    Toss this in with all the other caveats JB makes, and I'd go with: "Huh. Well, that's interesting."

  5. In a never-ending quest to be cutting edge back here, my gut reaction to the headline was "Arizona? Isn't that the state where Warren Jeffs and his many wives lived? Could this mean that Romney is regarded as a 'phony' Mormon out west?"

    I quickly realized that even if all eleventyteen of Jeffs' wives were contacted by pollsters, they would still be an inconsequential part of the poll. But this raises a possibility I hadn't previously considered: might Mormonism become an albatross for Romney...because of the Mormons?

    Surely they'll vote for him en masse over Obama. But will they beat the bushes for an East Coast proto-liberal like Romney? Will they do enough to offset the increasingly shifting demographics in formerly-Republican stronghold states, per Matt Jarvis above?

    Its quite curious, as conventional wisdom says that Mormonism is a problem for Romney because of what it causes non-Mormons to think of him.

    Might it end up being the case that the problem is what other Mormons think of him?


    I assume you are talking about this poll? Looks legit to me.

  7. I remember an article in '08 that talked about a huge Dem registration wave that was happening. Having McCain on the ticket negated that but it seemed at the time Dems were still working hard to use O's popularity to help for future elections.

    Any high Hispanic population state is ripe for a switch to the Dem side. Full Stop

    On a separate subject. I'd like to hear JB discuss the subject of campaigns mattering in relation to TPM's latest article about Romney's SB 5 OH flop

  8. Doug Shoen says that Obama can win Ariz if he triangulates toward the center by dumping Biden and picking Joe Arpaio for his running mate.

  9. Geoff G: He does? That seems incredibly stupid. Even setting aside the policy merits, Joe Arpaio is a 79 year old man whose only elected experience is as a county sheriff. And on policy grounds, that's still a stupid idea. Joe Arpaio does not seem to be "the center" in any serious sense.

  10. Sorry, User, I was kidding. I thought about putting in a disclaimer, since it is impossible to distinguish truth from satire these days. I should have.

  11. Good one, Geoff!

    And since we're having fun here, I have one for you. Obama should dump Biden, and nominate Gary Johnson as his VP. Now, THAT would shake up the race. Those liberaltarians would have to think things through, at that point. They might even come back for another taste in 2012. And it'd help in the West.


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