Republicans have won Arizona in 16 of the past 17 presidential elections. So while the Grand Canyon State hasn’t been the deepest of red states in recent decades, it has remained a reliable GOP stronghold, delivering wins for Republicans by comfortable margins every four years.
That began to change four years ago, the first time in a while that Arizona made an appearance on the list of key battleground states. Now, in 2020, President Donald Trump is in danger of losing Arizona — a result which would likely signal a national win for challenger Joe Biden.
Biden Holds Slight Edge in Arizona Polling
In 2016, Trump carried Arizona by 3.5%. Much like Georgia, Hillary Clinton appeared to be highly competitive here up until the final week of the campaign, when falling poll numbers for the Democrat moved the attention back to more traditional battleground states like Pennsylvania and Florida.
Still, that result ensured that both campaigns would pay plenty of attention to Arizona in 2020. From the beginning of the presidential race, pundits identified the state as one of several that Trump won, but which Biden could reasonably target.
|Arizona Presidential Election – Tale of the Tape|
|Arizona Betting Odds (via Bovada)|
|Biden: -130||Trump: +100|
|2016 Presidential Election Result|
|Clinton: 44.58%||Trump: 48.08%|
|Last Five Winners|
|Democrats: 0||Republicans: 5|
|RealClearPolitics Polling Average|
|Biden: 47.6%||Trump: 46.5%|
|FiveThirtyEight Projected Chance of Winning|
|Biden: 72%||Trump: 28%|
Sure enough, polling has shown a close race. Unlike in 2016, however, it may be the Democrats who now hold the edge in Arizona. As of Sunday, the RealClearPolitics polling average showed Biden with a 1.1% lead in the state. The only recent polls showing an advantage from Trump have come from Trafalgar and Rasmussen, pollsters that have traditionally leaned Republican.
As in other parts of the country, Trump and other Republicans are facing falling support in suburban areas. That was evident in both the 2016 presidential and 2018 midterm elections — and the problem isn’t going away in 2020.
“If the president loses Arizona, it’ll be largely because he lost Maricopa County – because he lost the suburbs,” former Arizona senator Jeff Flake told The Guardian.
COVID-19 Pandemic Weighs Heavily on Voters
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the race as well. Outside of the initial northeastern outbreak, Arizona has experienced one of the highest death rates per capita from the coronavirus in the United States, something that seems to have caused some voters to reconsider voting for Trump.
“Suddenly there was a shift,” Republican consultant Sarah Longwell told The Guardian. “Voters started talking about the stakes being too high. They were suffering personal consequences, which is very different from an abstract foreign policy issue. This was personal.”
Perhaps because of these factors, oddsmakers are treating Arizona differently from some other traditionally red states in which Biden is competing this year. While some remain skeptical over polls in places like Georgia and Florida, Bovada has Biden as a slim -130 favorite over Trump (+100) in Arizona.
While Arizona only offers 11 electoral votes, there are scenarios where the state could push Trump or Biden over the top. It could also help shape the narrative of a close race: while some states expect to count votes for days before any real results come in, Arizona will release its early vote totals almost immediately, and count most other votes within a few hours — potentially meaning a winner could be projected on Tuesday night.