Why has Trump’s support collapsed in Arizona?
Arizona used to be a Red state, a Grand Canyon yawning between the citizens and the Democratic Party’s electoral hopes. It’s the Copper State, not the Quartz State. But in late 2020, it’s firmly leaning into Biden’s camp. What’s up with that?
First off, what does the polling tell us about what’s been happening in voter sentiment in the state? It’s by far the biggest swing in the race this year.
Polling in February had Trump up by 3.9 points. Now Biden is up by 5. That’s a 9 point swing.
Most of the swing occurred in March, 6 points of it. From then until August, it was fairly stable. Then in late August there was something else going on. So there are two points of inflection to assess, March and August.
What happened in February and March that shifted Arizona’s citizens voting intentions so much?
The first was that COVID-19 was starting to ramp up, and it was obvious that it was serious and that Trump was doing a poor job. Metro Phoenix is a national hub for the healthcare industry, something I know from when I was doing major healthcare initiatives with a global technology giant. I flew into Phoenix several times in the late 2000s to deal with vendors there related to my efforts in helping build the most sophisticated outbreak and communicable disease management solution in the world. The medical industry isn’t as prone to willfully downplaying COVID-19 as the average Republican. That’s a lot of people who looked at Trump vs the Democratic Party and made a sensible decision. It’s also has a massive retirement community presence, and it was clear then that older people were more susceptible. It’s probable that retirees in Arizona were just leading the loss of 65+ voters for Trump.
The second was that Bernie Sanders halted his campaign, signaling strongly that he was going to drop out. The presumptive candidate at that point was the very palatable Joe Biden, a President that Arizona could get behind.
So COVID-19 and Sanders are good candidates for the Arizona shift in March. but what about the additional points Biden has picked up since then?
Well, at the beginning of September, Trump received a tiny bounce but then has been dropping since. That coincides with a post-RNC convention bounce for Trump, but not one he could sustain.
What’s going on more recently? A couple of things again.
First, a lot of Arizonians are not traditional Red state folks. There are a lot of northern liberal retirees who want some soothing sunshine and warmth in their declining years. They lived and worked with Blacks and other people of color. They aren’t as automatically susceptible to the Law and Order anti-Black messaging of the Trump campaign. And they’ve moved to a state with a very large non-white population, over 42%. The majority of children in the state in 2010 were already non-white, so a decade later, the youngest voters are majority non-white. And non-white voters were already voting Obama over McCain in 2008 and 2012, prior to the polarizing Black Lives Matter protests.
Second, COVID-19, again.
The USA is approaching 200,000 deaths. That’s 66 times the death toll of 9/11. Arizona has had 5,300 deaths and has flattened the curve. Their death toll is slightly under the national average, and they’d like to keep it that way. A Trump Presidency won’t help with that. All those retirees and medical personal are shaking their heads and being a lot more careful.
This has gotten so bad for Trump that he abandoned paid ads in the state in early September. His campaign is retrenching, floundering and trying to figure out where to spend their money. And they are short of money. Biden is massively out raising Trump in the home stretch.
So expect it to get worse. Biden was already outspending Trump, and that doesn’t count Republican #NeverTrumpers like the Lincoln Project, which has also been running anti-Trump ads in the state andRepublican Voters Against Trump with its salt-of-the-earth, repentant, former Trump voters.
It probably doesn’t hurt that Arizona hasn’t had Black Lives Matter related violence and looting as has occurred in some other states. The police and organizers managed to keep a lid on the far-right extremists who were instigating violence in many cities, the police didn’t get draconian and create violence, and there wasn’t the opportunistic looting which occurred in some states. One correspondent from Flagstaff told me that the local police were sensibly more concerned about far-right extremist instigators like the boogaloo bois than the protesters. The lack of local news about looting etc means a lot of Arizonians aren’t as susceptible to the fear mongering of the Trump campaign. They are more open to the awareness that BLM is the largest social justice movement in US history after the Civil War, with 26 million Americans marching as of the beginning of July. And those 42% of non-white Arizonians are very aware of the challenges of policing for communities of color.
And Arizona is getting hammered by climate change, something I had projected in 2019 would be a big issue in the 2020 election, before COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter upended the applecart, just as it was a major issue in the Canadian federal election a year ago.
So, Biden instead of Bernie, COVID-19, demographic shifts, climate change and Trump ad dollars mismanagement. That’s a potent mix. No wonder the state has Blue shifted so strongly over the past few months.