We Read Books So You Don't Have to: How Barack Obama Won (and Lost Arizona)


Occasionally, as a service to readers of this blog, we intend to brief you on the important political books that we have time to read, but you (almost certainly) do not. Hey, we get paid to peruse this stuff -- we might as well share the wealth in a convenient, blog-post-length format, right?

Our inaugural book, "How Barack Obama Won," recently showed up in our mailbox as a freebie from the publisher, Vintage Books. Okay, so we're not starting this little exercise in the most scientific of ways, but can you say "yay!" for free books? We sure can!

In this book, authors Chuck Todd and Sheldon Gawiser (both top dogs at NBC News) provide a state-by-state analysis of Obama managed to beat hometown hero (and New Times' whipping boy) John McCain.

In Arizona, of course, the analysis is pretty easy. Carpetbagger though he may technically be, McCain is our carpetbagger, and there's no way Arizona was going to deny him its ten electoral votes.

But Todd and Gawiser still have some interesting things to say about the state of Arizona politics. 

For one thing, Todd and Gawiser note, McCain actually won a smaller percentage of the vote here than did George W. Bush four years ago. That's partly because Independents actually opted for Obama over McCain -- 51 percent to 46 percent. That's roughly the same percentage of Independents who opted for John Kerry over the not-nearly-so-maverick Bush in 2004.

So McCain surely alienated some hard core conservatives who voted happily for Bush, but he didn't pick up any Independents in the process. In fact, he lost some. "Considering that McCain was the state's Mr. Independent,' it was a disappointing result for him," Todd and Gawiser write.

In Arizona, McCain did much better with Hispanics than elsewhere in the country. That's "probably" due to his home state advantage, the authors say. They also note, shockingly to anyone who's been forced to read to the anti-illegal crowd's endless commentary at, that "a majority of voters said illegal immigrants shuold be offered a chance to apply for legal status and not be deported." Really?? In Arizona?

Without McCain being the state's Senator, Todd and Gawiser believe, "it is likely Arizona would have been targeted in 2008." The changing population here has made us an emerging battleground ... exciting! 

The authors conclude with this commentary: "As for 2010, if John McCain runs for reelection to his Senate seat, then we probably won't get any clues about the competitiveness of this state. But if McCain decides to retire and the Senate seat opens up, strategists will have an opportunity to test just how purple this seat is turning going into 2012. One thing is clear, with the emergence of a Democratic resurgence all over the West, an Obama-run Democratic Party will probably do whatever it takes to lay the groundwork for making Arizona a battleground state by 2012."

Of course, with Janet Napolitano headed to Washington, D.C., that may be easier said than done. But kudos to Todd and Gawiser for attempting to give the lay of the land in a rapidly shifting landscape.

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Sarah Fenske
Contact: Sarah Fenske