by S.V. Date
PHOENIX ― Even as Donald Trump’s campaign boasts about “expanding the map” this year to win Minnesota, Oregon and New Mexico ― states he lost in 2016 ― the president recently found himself campaigning to hold the home state of Barry Goldwater, John McCain and Sandra Day O’Connor.
“We love to be back. We will be back a lot,” Trump promised a roaring crowd of 15,000. “And with your help this November we are going to defeat the radical socialist Democrats, and we are going to win Arizona in a landslide.”
Yet Trump’s very presence at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum at the state fairgrounds suggests that outcome is by no means guaranteed ― particularly in an increasingly Latino state where a Democrat in 2018 won a U.S. Senate seat for the first time in 24 years and another one took the key secretary of state’s post.
Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh has in the past said that the most valuable asset in the reelection bid is the president’s time ― he made that point to argue that Trump’s presence in Minneapolis last autumn was proof he had a chance of winning Minnesota. But he insisted Trump’s visit to Phoenix does not mean the president is in danger of losing Arizona.
“You also have to campaign where there is strong support to keep people engaged and show them that the president is fighting for them,” Murtaugh said.
Democrats and other Trump critics who describe the record midterm election turnout 14 months ago as a response to his tone and policies say that energy has not subsided, and this November will see them deliver Arizona and its 11 electoral votes to the Democratic nominee for the first time since 1996.
“We are seeing it as definitely within reach,” said Emily Kirkland, head of the group Progress Now Arizona. She terms the state “eminently flipable.”
And while Trump’s visits clearly excite his hard-core base, Democrats say they also energize those who will work hard to turn him out of office.