With less than two months to go until Election Day, polls show President Donald Trump has a real risk of losing Arizona, a state that has voted for a Democratic president only once since the 1950s.
Former Vice President Joe Biden has the support of 52 percent of likely voters, a crushing 10 points over Trump's 42 percent, according to a September 14 poll from OH Predictive Insights, a Phoenix-based polling firm. Biden has maintained a slight lead over Trump during recent months, but this — the firm's 10th such poll this election season — resulted in the widest margin between the two candidates yet seen.
The latest poll was conducted as a phone survey using a blend of live callers and automated voice response polling between September 8 and September 10, using a sample of 600 likely Arizona voters.
Trump's base of support appears to be eroding, the poll shows. Back in March, before the COVID-19 pandemic took Arizona by storm, 78 percent of Republicans aged 55 and older supported the president, while just 14 percent aligned with Biden. Now, only 69 percent of those GOP voters stand by Trump, while Biden's support among the demographic has shot up to 26 percent.
"This is the reality: Democrats are united, Republicans are less united, and independents who have traditionally leaned right are left but pretty far left," said Mike Noble, chief of research and managing partner at OH Predictive Insights.
"He’s losing independents by 20 points and his base isn’t shored up," he added. "When you're losing independents by 20 and you don’t have your base consolidated, it’s hard to win in traditionally ruby red Arizona."
The poll joins other surveys conducted after the Republican National Convention in late August that show Biden firmly leading in Arizona, albeit by different margins. A YouGov poll taken between September 9 and 11 put Biden ahead by three points, and a Gravis Marketing poll conducted during a similar time frame had Biden two points ahead. Meanwhile, a Fox News poll conducted between August 29 and September 1 has Biden ahead by around 9 points. The polling-oriented news outlet FiveThirtyEight gives Biden a five-point lead in Arizona in its regularly updated polling average.
"The numbers show that Trump is not ahead in a state he carried by 3 and a half points and a state that is critical for his road to 270 [electoral college votes]," Noble said. "Arizona may very well decide this election, which is pretty crazy to think."
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Being behind in polls accompanies other problematic news for Trump. The Biden campaign is reporting a record-breaking fundraising surge during August, while the Trump campaign recently pulled some of its broadcast advertising from the Phoenix media market. Meanwhile, revelations in Bob Woodward's new book on how Trump admitted to downplaying COVID-19 publicly despite knowing the dangers of the virus has renewed focus on his handling of the pandemic, despite his attempt to pivot back to familiar law-and-order messaging amid unrest over racial injustice in cities across the nation.
"The inability to solve COVID and to deal with that is a major problem for the president," said Barrett Marson, a Phoenix-based Republican political consultant. He added that the president has "struggled" to broaden his base of support in Arizona since the 2016 election.
The Trump campaign doesn't seem completely oblivious to his poor standing in Arizona. The president made his fifth trip to Arizona on September 14 for a Latinos for Trump roundtable event; previous trips included a visit to the southern border in Yuma and a rally for young conservatives in Phoenix. Vice President Mike Pence is also reportedly arriving at the end of the week for more events.
"President Trump is coming here repeatedly because he knows how important Arizona is and he knows that he faces a daunting task," Marson said. "He’s going to have to reinvest both his time, which he’s doing today, and his war chest, to ensure that Arizona stays in his column."