Arizona: Beneath the Surface

A strange turn of events coming from Arizona leads us to question some of the most recent polling and whether or not there could be a conservative backlash forming.

This would explain why the Democratic gubernatorial nominee is clearly moving to the ideological right with her campaign strategy.

Secretary of State Katie Hobbs won the open Democratic nomination for Governor with over 73% of the vote in early August. Former television news anchor Kari Lake (R) is her opponent, and many believed Ms. Hobbs would sweep past the latter once Donald Trumps strong support for Lake became the central campaign issue. For the August 2nd primary, Ms. Lake enjoyed strong support from the former President, which helped her score a close 47-44% Republican primary victory over University of Arizona Regent Karin Taylor Robson.

The general election, however, has become much more competitive than many expected. Ms. Lake, basically taking a Glenn Youngkin-style approach to Trump in the general election – that is, graciously accepting his endorsement but continuing to campaign individually for the office sought without making Trump a campaign factor – is running neck-and-neck with Ms. Hobbs. In the most recent polling, seven released surveys since September 6th, both candidates lead in three of the research studies and are tied in another.

In the three polls favoring Ms. Hobbs, her lead is one point in each survey. Of the three where Ms. Lake holds an edge, her margin is four points in two of the three. During this same time frame, September 6th to the present, nine polls have been conducted and Sen. Mark Kelly (D) holds the lead over Republican Blake Masters in all with an average spread of just under six percentage points in the accompanying statewide campaign.

Therefore, seeing these Senate campaign numbers would suggest that Ms. Hobbs would feel comfortable remaining close to her Democratic base, figuring that the Kelly campaign would take the lead in driving the party turnout. Not so, when looking at her most recent ad.

The new Hobbs ad basically adopts Republican themes, and not the current Democratic approach. She doesn’t mention abortion, unusual for a Democratic candidate these days since the party has clearly adopted a national single-issue strategy surrounding the issue. The party candidates across the board continue along this campaign path because the strategists believe that emphasizing the pro-choice position above all else is the way toward energizing the casual Democratic voter, i.e., those who only vote in presidential elections.

Instead, Ms. Hobbs is talking about implementing a tax cut for over 800,000 Arizona families and ending the sales tax on baby formula, school supplies, and medicines. Moving to the right while Sen. Kelly has a discernible advantage over Mr. Masters even while being attacked for his liberal voting record is a surprising development.

It appears the Hobbs campaign team may have uncovered patterns and trends in their research that leads them to conclude Republicans are in considerably better political shape than the current polls suggest. The primary turnout is one clue. Over 235,000 more Republicans than Democrats voted in the respective 2022 Arizona primaries, thus suggesting a possible precursor to a strong election night this November.

Such a closing surge would also be consistent with the Arizona vote in the 2020 election. Then, Sen. Kelly led by an average of just under seven points through the month of October, but only defeated then-Sen. Martha McSally (R) with just a two percentage point spread.

In the presidential campaign, Joe Biden led then-President Trump by an average of 2.5 percentage points over the final 22 polls conducted in the state, but only managed to carry the state by 10,457 votes of almost 3.4 million votes cast, or just .3 of one percent.

The Hobbs move to the right is unorthodox, but if successful will prove a Democratic candidate can win when “cutting across the grain.” 

Here is the Hobbs ad that at least tests what could her campaign’s change in direction.

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