This week, Arizona 360 looked at how the 2020 presidential election is taking shape in our state. Election Day is still about 20 months away, but a crowded Democratic field has already formed to challenge President Trump and at least one Democrat has officially launched his campaign to take on Republican Sen. Martha McSally.
For insight into these high-profile races, as well as the challenges each party faces in the state, we turned to James Kelley, commentator for 1030 KVOI radio, and Jim Nintzel, executive editor of the Tucson Weekly and Tucson Local Media.
"If you are not supporting the Republican party platform, the party of Donald Trump — because he's the president, it's his party now — there's going to be an issue with your own political base," Kelley said.
"I think that's why you saw Martha McSally move from a fairly centrist candidate when she was here in Southern Arizona representing CD2 in Congress to moving much more closely to Donald Trump because she was concerned about a primary challenge in that U.S. Senate race," Nintzel said.
The discussion also turned to the presidential race and Trump's favorability in the state. In 2016, the president won Arizona by 4 points. Christopher Conover asked both panelists if his odds were at risk in 2020.
"I think there are more and more Democrats that are actually enjoying the fruits of Donald Trump's labors as our president," Kelley said. "Here's the thing: More jobs, more money into the economy also means that all of those 'lefty programs,' all of those so-called 'socialist programs' get more money, too."
"It does not appear from Donald Trump's budgets that he plans to spend more money on 'lefty budgets.' Just looking at that, it seems like he's breaking some significant campaign promises about not touching Medicare, not touching social security, not touching Medicaid," Nintzel said. "Whether he will be as appealing in some of the close states that he won in 2020 remains to be seen, but I do believe Arizona will be up for grabs."
Pollsters are already getting an early sense of how voters feel about key issues and races in 2020. OH Predictive Insights in Phoenix surveyed voters last month about likely matchups for U.S. Senate, among other issues. Chief of research Mike Noble discussed the findings with Christopher Conover. According to the poll, Democrat Mark Kelly trails Republican Sen. Martha McSally by two points. Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego also falls short against McSally by 8 points.
"It's already shaping up to be quite the contest," Noble said.
The poll from OH Predictive also found that immigration has remained the top issue among voters since last fall, followed by education and health care.
"Immigration was our number one issue for a long time. However, last year, for a good portion of it, it was education," Noble said. According to Noble, immigration began polling as the top issue around October when news of the migrant caravan became widely reported.
Arizona 360 sat down with the new chair of the Arizona Republican Party to discuss her approach to rallying support for Republican candidates in 2020, as well as lessons learned from the 2018 midterms. Kelli Ward is a former state legislator who was elected head of the party in January, several months after an unsuccessful primary run for U.S. Senate. Ward told Christopher Conover how she plans to unite her party's voters behind the president's platform.
The leader of the Arizona Democratic Party sat down with Christopher Conover to talk about her party's campaign strategy in 2020. Felecia Rotellini ran twice for Arizona attorney general, losing to her Republican challengers in 2010 and 2014. After Democrats scored significant wins in state and federal races last November, the party voted to keep Rotellini as its chair for another two years. She explained why efforts to coordinate her party's ground game in Arizona is already underway.