Arizona hasn’t voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1996, but a combination of changing demographics and Donald Trump’s policies have put it solidly in play for 2020.
“I hope to God they get somebody in there,” Tim Maiefski, a loyal Republican voter, told The New York Times of finding a GOP primary challenger to Trump. Trump won by Arizona in 2016 by more than 3 points, but his approvals in the state have plummeted 26 points since he took office, from +20 to -6 points.
But if Maiefski, who thinks Arizona’s economy is dependent on immigrant labor, represents the business side of the GOP spectrum, Arizona’s anti-immigrant extremist wing has also been resurgent during Trump’s tenure. After GOP Sen. Martha McSally parted ways with Trump over his Mexican tariff threat, she suffered a bruising round of criticism last week during a telephone town hall.
“We’re being invaded,” the Tuscon caller asserted, mystified that Republicans hadn’t “stuck together” on the tariff threats Trump ultimately backed down on.
The extremist forces Trump has unleashed and caters to almost exclusively could pull him further to the right at the expense of voters who gave him a chance in 2016. In 2018, Democrats, fueled by both anti-Trump sentiment and swing voters, won two statewide races: a hotly contested U.S. Senate seat and the secretary of state post.
McSally was the GOP candidate who lost that Senate race and was later appointed to her current seat when the late Sen. John McCain passed away. In her reelection bid next year, she will potentially face off against former astronaut Mark Kelly to keep that seat, one several critical races that will determine which party controls the upper chamber.
Trump hasn’t figured it out yet, but his divisive nativist policies aren’t helping McSally one bit. As he will surely continue to woo the extremists and stoke their ire, McSally will be left to walk the line between nativism and pro-business policies backed by the Arizona Chamber of Commerce. It could potentially be a recipe for disaster for both her and Trump in 2020.
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