President Trump faced off against Kamala Harris in Arizona Wednesday, delivering an appeal to Hispanic voters and his conservative base while confronting headwinds that could make him the first Republican presidential candidate for decades to lose the state.
Addressing supporters in Bullhead City, the president panned the media, touted an increase in support among Hispanic voters, and promised the crowd that if reelected, “normal life will fully resume.”
The county, where Republicans dominate local elected offices, voted 73% for Trump in 2016.
Trump made a second stop at Phoenix’s Goodyear Airport in Maricopa County.
At about the same time, Democratic Party vice presidential nominee Harris was in Tucson, a liberal stronghold where the senator met Latina business owners before hosting about 100 cars for a COVID-19-conscious drive-through rally.
Like Trump, she headed later to the sprawling Maricopa County, home to Arizona’s largest cities and an electoral prize that could clinch a victory for her ticket on Election Day.
Trump won Maricopa by a slim margin running against Hillary Clinton in 2016.
But Republican strategist Chuck Coughlin said Republican participation so far is not where it needs to be in Maricopa County, or where it was when Trump beat Clinton there in 2016.
“Democrats in Maricopa County, which has the most reliable voter data, are participating at a rate” higher than Republicans are in the rest of the state, Coughlin said.
Whether Trump’s appeal to his rural base will be enough to counter the swell of enthusiasm that Democrats are showing in areas like Maricopa County is still not clear.
After winning Arizona’s 2016 Republican primary, nearly doubling the percentage of votes racked up by his closest competitor in the race, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Trump secured the state by a slim 3.5 percentage point margin, 48.1% to Clinton’s 44.6%.
Though he clinched the state’s 11 Electoral College votes with a more than 90,000 vote advantage and a strong lead in rural counties, his result paled against Romney’s 9.1 percentage point advantage against Barack Obama in 2012.
Today, Joe Biden leads Trump by 2.4 percentage points in Arizona, 48.6% to 46.2%, according to RealClearPolitics’s average of recent polls.
And in a sign of how critical and close the state has become, Trump has visited more than half a dozen times this year, including twice this month.
The president leads in just one of the five polls included in the average, all taken between Oct. 14-25.
Republican strategist Stan Barnes said he was confident that Trump would win, noting that while the president has an “unorthodox style that can be off-putting for some voters, this is less of a factor than Democratic Party policy” on display in the race this year.
“Arizona is a center-right state, and we support the Republican nominee for president most every time, with one exception, since Harry Truman was in the White House,” Barnes said. He pointed to Democratic U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, who “ran to the right of [Republican] Sen. Martha McSally on some issues” and still only won by about 40,000 votes, in a strong year for Democrats in Arizona.
Former McSally supporter Yasser Sanchez, now an independent campaigning for Harris and Biden, said he was turned away by her failure to distance herself from the president.
A member of the Church of Latter-day Saints, which has a large Arizona congregation, Sanchez said many of his fellow congregants who had historically voted Republican were “not comfortable with the nativist, anti-immigrant, anti-refugee” sentiment that he said Trump espouses.
The Biden-Harris ticket, he said, “is running up the score in Tucson,” which could eat into Trump’s overall vote percentages.