Arizona: Elections Keep Getting Tougher

 

Looking at Arizona’s 2018 primary election results, it is clear that the races for Governor and US Senate will be competitive. A not-so-deep dive into election data since 1998, focused on Senate and Presidential races, was not at all reassuring. Rather, it revealed a disturbing trend for Senate races, painting a picture that should rouse Republicans and MAGA voters to action.

The following table paints the picture, showing the vote differential between Republican and Democratic candidates, rounded to thousands. An “X” means there was no race for that position that year. In 2000, Senator Jon Kyl ran unopposed by any Democrat. All information is based on the Arizona Secretary of State’s General Election Information 1998-2016.

Year President Senate Seat 1 Senate Seat 2
2018 X McSally/Sinema X
2016 91 Trump X 328 McCain
2014 X X X
2012 208 Romney 68 Flake X
2010 X X 413 McCain
2008 196 McCain X X
2006 X 150 Kyl X
2004 211 Bush X 1,101 McCain
2002 X X X
2000 96 Bush 1,108 Kyl (No Dem) X
1998 X X 421 McCain

As you can see, the Senate races have gotten tighter, regardless of candidate personality. Indeed, Senator McCain’s supposed incumbency advantage was sharply declining. Likewise, Senator Kyl, when facing a Democrat, had less than half McCain’s smallest margin. Jeff Flake barely got elected, while his Democratic opponent, Dr. Richard Carmona, got about 11,000 more votes than President Obama, who was at the top of the ticket.

Looking at the whole table, you can take away the positive news that no Democrat has won Arizona’s vote for US Senator or for President since 1998. However, George W. Bush in 2000 looks a lot like Donald Trump in 2016 and both were resisted for years by Democrats as “illegitimate,” as having stolen the election. Senator McCain, as the state’s favorite son candidate, could not put as much distance between himself and President Obama as Romney did. Nor could he reach President Bush’s reelection margin.

So what of the gubernatorial races? Arizona goes both ways. A governor may only serve two terms, so there are frequent contests for open seats. The following table shows the winner’s last name, party, and the vote margin between the two major parties. All numbers in the table are rounded off and expressed in thousands (so, 10 would be 10,000).

2018 Winner? Party? Vote Margin?
2014 Ducey R 178
2010 Brewer R 175
2006 Napolitano D 416
2002 Napolitano D 12
1998 Hull R 259

In 1998, Governor Hull won by about half Senator McCain’s margin. In 2002, when the gubernatorial race was the top of the ticket, Republican Matt Salmon, who went on to be a successful congressman, lost a very close race to Janet Napolitano. She, in turn, was reelected by almost three times the margin of Senator Jon Kyl: 416,000 versus 150,000. Governor Brewer won by 175,000 in a year when Senator McCain’s margin was 431,000. Both Ducey and Brewer won the state by less than Republican presidential candidates, except the first George W. Bush and Donald Trump victories.

As a side note relevant to shaping the 2020 Senate race, the 2002 results support Governor Ducey not appointing Matt Salmon as Senator, if Jon Kyl is only going to be a “short relief pitcher.” Yes, Salmon had congressional career success. But, his one statewide race was a close loss, so he is not a safe bet for the 2020 special election to fill out the term until 2022. If Jon Kyl is not willing to serve past the end of this Congress (January 2019), then someone like former Congressman John Shadegg would be the smart call to battle for the vote in 2020.

All in all, Arizona is a very competitive state. Neither party can take the statewide offices for granted. Republican candidates have enjoyed a slight edge, but that edge is uncertain in the Senate and slim in the Governorship. While no Democrat has won Arizona’s electoral college votes since President Clinton in 1996, we have seen some very competitive elections. There is no need to panic, but there are also no grounds for slacking off between now and November 6, 2018. Both Governor Doug Ducey and Congresswoman Martha McSally will need all the help they can get.

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  1. Doug Watt Moderator
    Doug Watt
    @DougWatt

    There may be some hope. The Republican turnout in the primaries were slightly better than the Dems. If the turnout stays the same in the general election Governor Ducey has a vey good chance of reelection. Martha McSally will need to reach out to Kelli Ward supporters. Joe Arpaio only carried one county.

    Sinema has some liability based upon a far left history that extends well past just wearing a pink tutu at a Code Pink rally. McSally will need to hammer her on ties to the Communist Party, as well as to CAIR. I’ve provided a link to the voter turnout.

    Link

    • #1
  2. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    Doug Watt (View Comment):

    There may be some hope. The Republican turnout in the primaries were slightly better than the Dems. If the turnout stays the same in the general election Governor Ducey has a vey good chance of reelection. Martha McSally will need to reach out to Kelli Ward supporters. Joe Arpaio only carried one county.

    Sinema has some liability based upon a far left history that extends well past just wearing a pink tutu at a Code Pink rally. McSally will need to hammer her on ties to the Communist Party, as well as to CAIR. I’ve provided a link to the voter turnout.

    Link

    Be careful with the primaries characterization. Since independents can vote either ballot, we do not know the actual breakdown of who voted a Republican ballot and who voted a Democratic ballot. It is clear that no registered Republican could vote Democrat or vice versa.

    While Republicans still lead Democrats in voter registration, the Democrats added almost 15,000 since January, while Republicans added 1300 and Independents lost 17,000. That is, people seem to have realigned slightly towards the Democrats, possibly reversing the long trend of dealignment (rejecting party labels and declaring independent status). The information is buried in a voter registration spreadsheet here.

    I agree that McSally must reach out and must hammer Sinema. I wonder if it would help to have Ducey campaigning with her — talking about the great things happening in Arizona and how we need a voice in the Senate and voices in the House to keep the federal bureaucrats off our backs, while doing their job of securing our borders against crime, drugs, and human traffickers.

    • #2
  3. JosePluma Thatcher
    JosePluma
    @JosePluma

    Thanks!  Excellent analysis.

    • #3
  4. Doug Watt Moderator
    Doug Watt
    @DougWatt

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    Doug Watt (View Comment):

    There may be some hope. The Republican turnout in the primaries were slightly better than the Dems. If the turnout stays the same in the general election Governor Ducey has a vey good chance of reelection. Martha McSally will need to reach out to Kelli Ward supporters. Joe Arpaio only carried one county.

    Sinema has some liability based upon a far left history that extends well past just wearing a pink tutu at a Code Pink rally. McSally will need to hammer her on ties to the Communist Party, as well as to CAIR. I’ve provided a link to the voter turnout.

    Link

    Be careful with the primaries characterization. Since independents can vote either ballot, we do not know the actual breakdown of who voted a Republican ballot and who voted a Democratic ballot. It is clear that no registered Republican could vote Democrat or vice versa.

    While Republicans still lead Democrats in voter registration, the Democrats added almost 15,000 since January, while Republicans added 1300 and Independents lost 17,000. That is, people seem to have realigned slightly towards the Democrats, possibly reversing the long trend of dealignment (rejecting party labels and declaring independent status). The information is buried in a voter registration spreadsheet here.

    I agree that McSally must reach out and must hammer Sinema. I wonder if it would help to have Ducey campaigning with her — talking about the great things happening in Arizona and how we need a voice in the Senate and voices in the House to keep the federal bureaucrats off our backs, while doing their job of securing our borders against crime, drugs, and human traffickers.

    I don’t think that Ducey and McSally would have any problem campaigning together. McSally has said that she would have no problem with Trump coming to Arizona on her behalf.  

     

    • #4
  5. Hang On Member
    Hang On
    @HangOn

    Doug Watt (View Comment):

    I don’t think that Ducey and McSally would have any problem campaigning together. McSally has said that she would have no problem with Trump coming to Arizona on her behalf.

     

    There goes @garyrobbins vote.

    • #5
  6. Arizona Patriot Member
    Arizona Patriot
    @ArizonaPatriot

    An interesting analysis, but I doubt that there are sufficient data points here to draw any conclusions.

    For example, the Senate results vary widely depending on the strength or weakness of the main opposition candidate.  For example, McCain’s big victory in 2004 was technically opposed, but the opposition was an unknown 8th grade teacher who spent only $15,000 on the campaign (per Wikipedia).

    Kyl held his seat in 2006, though by a narrow margin, in a major “blue wave” election.  Flake won the same seat somewhat narrowly in 2012, but faced a strong opponent (Richard Carmona, a former Surgeon General and really great guy from Tucson) who was running alongside Obama (beaten by Romney, but nevertheless a strong draw for Dem voters).

    In an aside about all politics being local, it happens that one of my childhood neighbors married Carmona’s daughter, and Carmona was a friend of my dad.  That’s Tucson for you — 3 degrees of separation is unusual, even though our metro area population is about a million.

    Napolitano’s victories in the governor’s races in 2002 and 2006, and the Republican victories since then, suggest that Arizona has become more “red” over time.

    I would agree, however, that it remains close enough that unusual circumstances can result in a Dem victory in an important statewide election.  Overall, I think that Arizona is between R+8 and R+10, but this means that a weak Republican candidate in a bad year can still lose.  

    • #6
  7. Arizona Patriot Member
    Arizona Patriot
    @ArizonaPatriot

    Hang On (View Comment):

    Doug Watt (View Comment):

    I don’t think that Ducey and McSally would have any problem campaigning together. McSally has said that she would have no problem with Trump coming to Arizona on her behalf.

     

    There goes @garyrobbins vote.

    I haven’t actually heard from our friend Gary about his view of McSally, after her favorable references to the President.  I know that he supported her strongly early on.

    • #7
  8. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    Arizona Patriot (View Comment):

    An interesting analysis, but I doubt that there are sufficient data points here to draw any conclusions.

    For example, the Senate results vary widely depending on the strength or weakness of the main opposition candidate. For example, McCain’s big victory in 2004 was technically opposed, but the opposition was an unknown 8th grade teacher who spent only $15,000 on the campaign (per Wikipedia).

    Kyl held his seat in 2006, though by a narrow margin, in a major “blue wave” election. Flake won the same seat somewhat narrowly in 2012, but faced a strong opponent (Richard Carmona, a former Surgeon General and really great guy from Tucson) who was running alongside Obama (beaten by Romney, but nevertheless a strong draw for Dem voters).

    In an aside about all politics being local, it happens that one of my childhood neighbors married Carmona’s daughter, and Carmona was a friend of my dad. That’s Tucson for you — 3 degrees of separation is unusual, even though our metro area population is about a million.

    Napolitano’s victories in the governor’s races in 2002 and 2006, and the Republican victories since then, suggest that Arizona has become more “red” over time.

    I would agree, however, that it remains close enough that unusual circumstances can result in a Dem victory in an important statewide election. Overall, I think that Arizona is between R+8 and R+10, but this means that a weak Republican candidate in a bad year can still lose.

    The “weak opponent” / “strong opponent” dynamic is not necessarily random. Up-and-comers do not tarnish their brand with blow-out losses. A strong opponent suggests their party senses blood in the water, a vulnerable candidate.

    • #8
  9. The Cloaked Gaijin Member
    The Cloaked Gaijin
    @TheCloakedGaijin

    Arizona: Elections Keep Getting Tougher

    What causes this?  Hmm, I guess the world may never know.

    “In multiracial societies, you don’t vote in accordance with your economic interests and social interests, you vote in accordance with race and religion.” — Lee Kuan Yew, Prime Minister of Singapore, 1959-1990

    It’s been going on for a long time from what I’ve read.  Barry Goldwater was only elected by less than 10,000 votes in the Republican Party landslide year of 1980 when the Republicans picked up 12 US Senate seats and while Reagan was winning more than twice as many votes as Carter in Arizona (61%-28%) that year.

    • #9
  10. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    I challenge other Ricochetii in competitive states to lay out your own state’s political landscape. Where do you see reason for optimism or concern? Have you seen such analysis or background information in writing, podcast, or video?

    • #10
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