Given the amount of love and attention Donald Trump has heaped on Arizona in the past year, you'd think he'd have the state in the bag come November.
Turns out, that just might not be the case.
A new poll released this week by OH Strategic Communications and MBQF Consulting shows that 46.5 percent of likely Arizona voters say that if the presidential election were held today, they'd cast a ballot for Hillary Clinton, compared to 42.2 percent who say they'd vote for Trump. (Of the rest, 5.8 percent are going for a third-party candidate and 5.6 percent are undecided.)
For team Trump, the bad news continues. Despite proclamations that women love him – "I think I'm doing great with the women," he said in Phoenix last week — it's no secret that he tends to poll poorly with this half of the population. The poll's findings reinforce that. Only 38.6 percent of women say they'd vote for Trump, whereas 50.9 percent on are team Hillary.
Clinton appears to be carrying Arizona's registered independents, too — 45.3 percent to Trump's 38.1 percent. Geographically, she's polling ahead in Pima and Maricopa counties, while Trump is leading in rural areas of the state, 47.4 percent to Clinton's 41.9 percent.
That said, according to lead pollster Mike Noble, "It's very surprising to think that Hillary Clinton may carry Arizona, a state that holds the narratives of SB1070, two nationally known anti-illegal-immigration sheriffs, liberal gun laws, and consistently conservative constituents."
A Democratic presidential candidate hasn't carried Arizona since Bill Clinton won the state in 1996.
The election is still many months away, so it's far too early to predict which way Arizona will go. But what can be said is that this poll comes during a rough week for Trump and his campaign.
National polls show Clinton up by 5.8 points, while Trump's campaign appears to be mired in political controversy after political controversy: First his FEC filings revealed he has only $1.3 million in cash on hand, compared to Clinton's $42 million. Then, he fired his campaign manager and right-hand man, Corey Lewandowski. And then the AP discovered the Trump campaign has spent at least $6 million of its campaign loot to pay Trump-affiliated companies and businesses.
What does all this mean? As longtime GOP consultant Chuck Coughlin told New Times recently, at the end of the day, one of the biggest factors in the success of a political campaign is its message. The winner is often the candidate who does a better job spelling out what Coughlin calls "the aspirational message."
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"We know what kind of campaign Trump is going to run: Joe Arpaio on a national level," Coughlin says, adding that the GOP could be in a lot of trouble "if Clinton runs a really aspirational campaign. This might be a cycle where people actually turn out in larger numbers to vote against something."
Asked what he believes will happen in the next few months, Coughlin offers this: "Going forward, it's going to be a dogfight. It's ugly. It's a race to the bottom – people calling each other names, no one speaking to the better aspirational part [of a campaign message] that people want to hear about. I'm still not convinced that there's not going to be a riot in Cleveland. It could be very messy."
In fact, he adds, "I would count on it."
I buy Arizona as a swing state this year. It opens up some winning maps for Clinton she wouldn't have otherwise. pic.twitter.com/5hSQyheY6k— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) June 22, 2016