Arizona voters apparently love racial profiling and corruption. That's the conclusion I'm drawing from newly released Rasmussen poll numbers showing that Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio does the best of possible GOP gubernatorial candidates against Arizona Attorney Terry Goddard. In a survey of 1,200 likely voters, Arpaio, a Republican, would top Democrat Goddard 51 to 39 percent in a hypothetical match-up.
Governor Jan Brewer and state Treasurer Dean Martin don't fare nearly as well. The poll shows Goddard beating Brewer 44 to 35 percent in a 2010 general election. Martin does a bit better, at 38 percent to Goddard's 40.
Arpaio is clearly the big dog, with a 63 percent favorable rating, while Goddard has only a 51 percent approval rating. To the question of whether or not Arpaio is doing the right thing, "trying to work around federal law and track down illegal immigrants," 64 percent of Arizonans replied in the affirmative.
Though the sheriff likes toying with the idea of gubernatorial run, he's never taken the bite. The conventional wisdom has been that his message is limited to crime and illegal immigration, and that he would not do as well statewide as he does in conservative Maricopa County.
But as this poll shows, you can't go wrong bashing Mexicans in Ari-bama.
The wild card, if Arpaio were to run, would be the prospect of indictment or his office being sued by the federal government. Both the Department of Justice and the FBI are currently investigating Arpaio on charges of racial profiling and abuse of power.
In an October CBS 5 special on Arpaio, former U.S. Attorney David Iglesias stated that he would seek an indictment against Arpaio based on the evidence of the sheriff's retaliation against political enemies. For example, Arpaio still has a two-year-old investigation ongoing into Goddard's office over the AG's inquiry into former state Treasurer David Petersen.
Still, I wonder if the Obama administration might chicken out of a confrontation with an elected politician who is so popular statewide. Let's face it, they'd have to have Arpaio or his office cold. If something comes down the pike that Arpaio can spin his way, he will, thus muddying the waters.
I've always thought Arpaio wouldn't run for governor because his office is so riddled with corruption. He would have to resign to run, and that would mean the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors would pick a fill-in until a special election. With a clean caretaker heading up the MCSO, the degree of the sheriff's malfeasance in office would be even clearer to the casual observer than it is now.
But Arpaio is one bold egomaniac. The prospect of being elected governor of Arizona may be too sweet for him to pass up this time around. Arpaio indicates as much on his latest Twitter post.
"If ever there was a time to consider a run," he Tweets, "now may be the time. I [continue] to be asked by my supporters to step up and fill a leadership void."