If the number of times a presidential candidate visits a state is any indication of how much they like it, then Donald Trump loves Arizona.
Tuesday's Student’s for Trump rally in Phoenix marked the third time this year that the president has visited the state, even despite the COVID-19 pandemic that has severely hampered the schedules of both major presidential campaigns.
But does Arizona love him back?
For the first time in recent memory, the Grand Canyon state is shaping up to be a pivotal battleground state that both Trump and Biden may need to get to the crucial 270 electoral votes needed to capture the White House in November.
Arizona has not had a history as a battleground state. It has voted for the Republican candidate in every presidential election since Bill Clinton beat Bob Dole in 1996. Prior to that, the next most recent Democrat to win Arizona was Harry Truman in 1948. Despite this solid history of GOP support, the two most recent elections have proven that the shine may be off the GOP for a large group of Arizona voters. Hillary Clinton came within four points of carrying the state in 2016 and Kyrsten Sinema became the first Democrat to represent the state in the Senate since Dennis DeConcini (1977-1995).
Mike Noble is the Chief Researcher at OH Predictive Insights, an Arizona based polling firm that puts out a monthly political opinion poll. His research shows that Donald Trump’s approval rating in the state is underwater by nine points. Fifty-four percent of likely Arizona voters disapprove of the job that Trump is doing.
On top of that, when Trump and Biden are tested in a head to head matchup, Trump loses to Biden by seven points, 50 to 43.
Polling aggregator sites like FiveThirtyEight take all the polls of Arizona voters and applies an averaging formula to them to get the most reliable data. Right now Biden is projected to be 4.4 points ahead of Trump in the state.
So how does a state that Donald Trump won in 2016 now appear to be pulling away from him? The polling suggests that self-declared Independent voters living in the suburbs of the state’s most populous county of Maricopa have backed away from Trump.
The maps below paint a picture of the political landscape of the state going into November 2020.
The statewide map shows that most of the state’s rural regions except for tribal lands in Navajo, Apache, and Pima are solidly Trump country.
Maricopa County, once a Republican stronghold in the state, is now more complicated. Three hundred thirteen of the county's rural and exurban precincts supported both Donald Trump and Martha McSally.
Three hundred seventeen of the county’s precincts situated and spreading out from downtown Phoenix, threw their support to Hillary Clinton and then Kyrsten Sinema. Eighty-eight precincts that exist between these two groups were the deciding factor in Sinema’s victory over McSally in 2018. These precincts, along with demographically similar precincts bordering them, are shaping up to be pivotal in 2020.
These swing precincts all have high numbers of registered independent voters.