Without officially saying, "Bring it on," the Hillary Clinton campaign has essentially done just that by declaring Arizona a battleground state.
The news broke today after campaign staffers called local Democratic Party leaders to tell them Arizona is officially in play, and that the national campaign will be investing a "significant" amount of money and resources into the state.
Specifics about the upcoming effort — how many new staffers will be hired, how much will be spent on TV ads — are still in the works, but Sheila Healy, executive director of the Arizona Democratic Party, tells New Times she expects to see more details within the next few days.
"We're seeing a lot of energy and excitement all across the state. And their idea is to capitalize on that as quickly as possible," Healy says. "We've been telling folks for a long time that Arizona is in play and that it's going to be a big year for Democrats all way down the ballot."
For months, prominent Democrats in the state have been pushing the Clinton campaign to invest in Arizona, arguing that this is the year the state will turn blue.
"It's finally starting to pay off," says Rep. Ruben Gallego, a longtime Clinton supporter. "We started this conversation back during the primary when she and her staff were here, and I told them this is a state that's going to be winnable for Clinton campaign come the general election."
Despite past promises that failed to come to fruition, the Clinton campaign seems to have listened this time.
"[Campaigns] are always an issue of time, resources, and money. And the most important thing if you're a candidate is to win," Gallego says. "Right now, what they're saying is that Arizona is a worthwhile investment, and that they do have a shot to win. You don't just put some resources into a state and not think it's winnable."
It can't hurt that Clinton's Republican rival, Donald Trump, has been plummeting in the polls. Nationally, according to Real Clear Politics, Trump is polling at 39.9 percent, Clinton at 47.8 percent.
The margins, however, are much slimmer when the pollsters are asking about just Arizona. Real Clear Politics shows Trump up by 0.3 percent, while FiveThirtyEight says if the election were held today, Clinton would win by 4.5 percent.
So even though pundits are calling Arizona a toss-up, given that Arizona hasn't voted Democrat in a general election since 1996, what makes this year different?
Gallego cites several factors. From the growing Latino population to his hunch that Democrats will come out to vote because of their increasing frustration with Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Senator John McCain, both of whom are on the ballot this November, Gallego seems confident that his party has a shot to win up and down the ballot.
And don't get him started on Trump himself.
"I think there's very strong support for Trump from Arizona's Republican base, but I think that like the rest of the country, [many moderate Republicans and Independents] are waking up to see he's just not fit to be president," Gallego says.
Earlier today, Trump raised eyebrows in North Carolina when he said at a rally that "if [Clinton] gets to pick — if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don't know."
The internet lit up at the suggestion that the Republican presidential candidate was urging gun owners to take matters into their own hands.
Yet, Trump remains popular in Arizona, particularly in Maricopa County, where he dominated the primary. Earlier this year, he identified Arizona as one of 17 battleground states on which he intended to focus. The candidate has visited Phoenix four times in the past year; just last week, he dispatched his vice-presidential pick, Indiana governor Mike Pence, to hold a rally here.
Despite all the visits, however, Trump has practically no ground game in Arizona, and there are signs that many in his own party are worried he'll lose. Sen. Jeff Flake, for instance, has explicitly said that very thing multiple times.
Bottom line, says Healy of the state Democratic Party, "I think [the Clinton campaign has] been looking at Arizona for a long time, trying to determine whether or not it makes sense to spend some of the national pot of money. And the more you look at it, you just can't deny investing in Arizona is a really good idea – not just for this cycle, but for the future."
**Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story said Arizona voted for Bill Clinton in 1992. That is incorrect. He won the state in 1996.
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