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Politics

Arizona could turn into a swing state because of Donald Trump

Demographics and Trump's highly negative rating among Hispanic voters may put Arizona, once a safe Republican state, into play for Democrats
20 May 2016 – 8:14 PM EDT

The likely nomination of Donald Trump as the Republican Party's presidential candidate may undermine the its historic grip on some "red" states.

Among them is Arizona, which has the sixth-largest Latino population in the United States. Polls in the state indicate both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders would defeat Trump in the November elections.

The presidential campaign had been expected from its start to feature tight races in seven swing states, which do not vote consistently for either party: Ohio, Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Virginia and Florida.

But Trump's low levels of support among Hispanics, at the national level as well as in some states, may expand that list come November.

Republicans have seen their support among minorities drop in recent years, but in the specific case of Arizona the problem appears to be the result of one factor: Trump's incendiary statements on Hispanics.

The Arizona case

“It's conceivable that Arizona will become a blue state in the next elections because a Donald Trump candidacy could encourage a bigger Hispanic turnout. But it's too early to say that,” Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, told Univision.

The nearly 2.1 million Hispanics in Arizona represent 31 percent of the state population and 992,000 are registered to vote, according to the Pew Research Center. In recent years, the growth rate of its Hispanic population has ranked in the top 10 among U.S. states, which will clearly impact vote tallies down the road.

Republican slates have won almost all recent elections in Arizona with the exception of 1996, when Bill Clinton barely defeated Bob Dole. The GOP's Mitt Romney won the state in 2012 by a large 10-point margin over Barack Obama.

But Trump could break the state's red streak with his promise to build a wall on the border with Mexico and tighten U.S. immigration policies, plus his insults of Mexicans.


A poll by the Behavior Research Center in April, when Trump was still battling Gov. John Kasich and Sen. Ted Cruz for the presidential nomination, showed Sanders would defeat any of the three Republicans in November. Hillary Clinton would lose to Cruz and Kasich but would defeat Trump by a 42-35 margin.

Trump's negative numbers may be directly related to his negative image among Hispanic voters. One Gallup poll showed that 77 percent of Hispanics have an unfavorable image of the businessman and only 12 percent have a favorable image.

That's why Arizona could turn into one of the at-risk states for Republicans

Sabato warned in a recent report that Arizona is only one of the traditionally red states that could swing to the blue side in November. When African-American voters are thrown in Georgia, Indiana and Missouri also may shift to the Democrats' column.

Is it Trump's fault?

Analyst say the crisis faced by the Republicans started before Trump arrived on the political scene. For Sabato, part of the problem is that the GOP “has become a space with few minorities of any kind.”

Several analysts agree that Republican votes tend to drop in states where the ethnic diversity grows.

“After losing in 2012, they carried out surveys to find the reason for their falling popularity and found that in order to again become the majority party in this country, they had to attract Hispanic and women voters. But they've done exactly the opposite,” said Eduardo Gamarra, a political scientist at Florida International University who polls U.S. Hispanics

Analysts also warn the “Trump factor” could motivate more Hispanics to register to vote so they can cast their ballots against the businessman. One poll found that 41% of Latino voters who said they were more motivated to vote in 2016 attributed that to a negative view of Trump.

Although analysts agree that the GOP already faced a crisis before Trump, the candidate and his repellent statements on Hispanics – as well as women and Muslims – may be increasing the party's problems, especially in states with large minority populations.


The electoral map

The current configuration of the U.S. electoral map favors the Democrats, according to analysts.

Democrats already traditionally control about 18 states with about 240 of the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the White house. Republicans control only about 13 states with some 102 votes. Those results have been validated by virtually all elections since 1992.

“The growth of the Hispanic population is one of the keys,” said Gamarra. “The country is changing, and the demographic factor is a fundamental part of that change.”

One key question is whether Clinton, leading the race for her party's nomination, will be able to take advantage of Trump's negatives and win states where Democrats always lost in past years.

Clinton campaign spokesman Jorge Silva told Univision the campaign “will try to win all the votes possible, including Arizona.” He did not specify whether that would mean increased campaign spending or efforts in the state.

Some political observers said they expect that Clinton, if she's nominated at the Democratic convention in Philadelphia in July, will then do polling in Arizona to determine whether it's worth campaigning hard there in hopes of winning the state.

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