Everyone's seen the recent Cronkite/Eight numbers showing that Sheriff Joe Arpaio remains popular in Maricopa County, with a 61 percent approval rating overall, and a 65 percent positive rating of those with an opinion. The same poll showed Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard with a 55 percent approval rating statewide. Of those with an opinion, 76 percent gave Goddard a thumbs up.
Arpaio's high numbers, while impressive, are countywide; Goddard's numbers, statewide. However, ABC15 equates the two in a recent report, making it seem as if Arpaio's numbers are actually from across Arizona, thereby tapping him as a viable candidate for governor against the Attorney General, whom most expect will be he Democratic nominee.
"A poll came out this week that measured several state official's approval ratings," writes ABC15 correspondent Dave Biscobing. "Arpaio easily beat several other possible Republican candidates, and the only person who fared better was Democrat Terry Goddard at more than 70 percent approval. At this point, other recent polls show Goddard wins big against any Republican. But the Attorney General's name hasn't been tested against Arpaio."
(The last two sentences concerning Goddard refer to a survey by Public Policy Polling, showing Goddard topping the Republican field of likely gubernatorial candidates.)
Arpaio, obviously, is not a state official. And Cronkite/Eight's press release concerning these latest results make it clear that only "Maricopa County voters" were asked to rate Arpaio's performance. To make this even clearer, the questions dealing with Arpaio are marked in bold and all-caps on the release, "IF MARICOPA COUNTY."
To be absolutely sure, I called Cronkite/Eight pollster Bruce Merrill, who confirmed that Cronkite/Eight did not poll statewide for Arpaio's approval ratings for two reasons: Arpaio is not a state official; and two, Arpaio is not a likely candidate for governor.
"If he were going to run, then we would definitely ask voters statewide how they feel about that," Merrill told me. "The problem is Joe doesn't get as much exposure, obviously, in some of the rural counties."
Merrill said he believed Arpaio's statewide numbers would be high, especially of those who had an opinion of him. But he explained that Cronkite/Eight had not done such polling. Also, Merrill said that he does not believe Arpaio will run for governor.
"I doubt that he will," opined the pollster. "Joe likes press coverage, so if saying he's going to run for governor gets him more press coverage, he's going to consider it. But he isn't going to run. His problem, if he ran statewide, would be that he would really have to demonstrate to the public that he's more than a one-issue candidate.
"He's very much identified with illegal immigration and crime. When you run for governor, you have to deal with education and transportation and health, all kinds of things. Whether or not Joe would be willing to invest in learning all of that, I don't know, but I think in the past that he would have to broaden himself quite a bit, so my guess is that he will not run."
Merrill said he's been through this sort of speculation concerning Arpaio running for governor "hundreds of times," and so far, Arpaio's not thrown his hat in the ring. Though there's no doubt Joe loves the hype.
"Arpaio's dumb like a fox," noted Merrill, who also observed that Arpaio's support increases with the age of the voters involved.
"The older a person is, we've found, the more they like Joe," said Merrill. "Like in Maricopa County, let's say he gets a 65 percent rating overall. If you went out into Sun City, or out into the retirement communities in the East Valley, his rating is somewhere up around 75 or 80 percent."
And those voters who love Joe tend to lap up his reactionary, get-tough rhetoric.
"Not only do they like his position on illegal immigration," observed Merrill. "They even like the way he says it. Where some people might think he's bombastic, and kind of off-the-wall or something, the average guy who's concerned about illegal immigration or crime, he wants someone who talks the way he does. He wants someone who says, `I'm gong to go kick these people in the ass and hang 'em.'"
Heh. And who said old folks were nice?
Of course, Arpaio's ego is further inflated by the musings of some in the press, but I agree with Merill that he will not run. Arpaio is a figurehead, the MCSO godfather who keeps all of his ne'er-do-well underlings employed and all of his departments' skeletons in the closet. Were he to resign-to-run, as he would be required under state law, his headquarters at the Wells Fargo Building would gush forth a tidal wave of corruption into the public sphere.
There wouldn't be enough paper shredders and lawyers to save 'em all. Still, Joe talks a good game.
"I don't want to sound egotistical," Joe told ABC 15 of a fantasy bid for governor. "But I know I can win."
Then put your ducats where your mouth is, Joe. But we all know -- including the media toadies that kiss your ring -- that it ain't gonna happen.