Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren isn't giving up just yet.
On Tuesday, the Democratic presidential candidate's campaign brought in former United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro to stump for her at two Mexican restaurants in downtown Phoenix. Castro had endorsed Warren in January after shutting down his own presidential campaign the same month.
Castro hosted a "Juntos Con Warren" roundtable event at Tres Leches Cafe in downtown Phoenix on Tuesday morning. Then he held an early-voting event for Warren supporters at El Portal restaurant, where he acknowledged Warren's early losses in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada with a positive spin.
Recent Arizona polls and fundraising numbers indicate that Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders leads the Democratic presidential candidates in local support by a long shot.
"Ninety-seven percent of the delegates out there have not been allocated," Castro told a crowd of several dozen supporters. "So don't let anybody tell you that somehow this race is already set in stone."
Castro doubled down on that point in an interview with Phoenix New Times, saying Warren's strong performance at last Wednesday's Democratic primary debate "re-energized" her campaign, and that he's "convinced that she can do great here."
"Senator Warren believes in Arizona as an important part of this country's future," Castro said. "She's putting in the hard work, investing resources for organizers, getting volunteers activated — and she's been doing that for months."
But Warren is facing long odds in Arizona, where a recent FiveThirtyEight poll listed Sanders with 28 percent of the Democratic vote, former Vice President Joe Biden with 14.9 percent, and Warren in third with 13.8 percent.
Sanders also has raked in more fundraising dollars in Arizona than Warren. At the end of January he'd raised $768,054 in Arizona to Warren's $416,518, according to Cronkite News' analysis of campaign finance reports from the Federal Election Commission.
Local political consultants said there's always a chance Warren will regain the support she needs to pull ahead of Sanders, but right now, things aren't looking good for her in Arizona.
"I think she will probably be exiting the race very soon, is my guess," said Chad Campbell a former Democratic state representative and consultant at the Democratic public relations firm Strategies 360. "Barring some incredible comeback, I can't really see a lot of candidates sticking around after Super Tuesday."
Super Tuesday, when people in 14 states will cast their votes in a Democratic presidential primary, is coming up next Tuesday, March 3. Arizona's presidential preference election is two weeks later, on March 17. Though a Democratic debate is coming to Phoenix on March 15, two days before the vote, Campbell said it would be hard for Warren to make up the ground she needs to pull ahead in Arizona.
"Her pathway is tough," he said. "It's getting tougher and tougher at this point."
Another factor is tonight's Democratic debate in Charleston, South Carolina, where Warren and six other candidates hope to stand out. At last Wednesday's debate in Nevada, Warren's digs against former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg and other candidates gave her viral attention on social media and briefly brought her up to second place in a national CBS News poll.
Bloomberg, who has poured money into Arizona, hasn't yet emerged in a winning position in local polls. But he's an "X factor" in the race, according to Campbell, because it's still unclear how the billionaire's massive investment in advertising and field staff will influence the vote.
Castro told New Times he'll support whichever Democrat wins the nomination for the presidency, but for now, he's staying in Warren's camp. He said he thinks Arizonans will see that her preparedness and track record set her apart from Sanders.
"If you like Bernie, you'll love Elizabeth," he said. "Not only is she an unabashed progressive, she actually has a track record of getting things done."
After speaking at Tuesday's early voting event, Castro walked with Warren fans to drop off their early ballots. He then headed to Tucson for a canvassing event, a debate watch party, and an ASARCO mine strike visit with Tucson Mayor Regina Romero, who announced her support for Warren last week.
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