Clinton campaign pushing money, proxies to Arizona in effort to swing state

Hillary Clinton at a March campaign rally at Carl Hayden High School in Phoenix. Her campaign announced a new commitment of funds and rallies in the state, giving Democrats hope that Arizona could be in play this Election Day. (Photo by Ben Moffat/Cronkite News)

WASHINGTON – With only three weeks to Election Day, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is sending top surrogates to Arizona this week and pledging $2 million in advertising in an effort to turn the state blue for the first time in 20 years.

The push, announced Monday by the Clinton campaign, will include appearances by Sen. Bernie Sanders in Flagstaff and Tucson Tuesday, by Chelsea Clinton in Tempe Wednesday and by first lady Michelle Obama in Phoenix Thursday.

“In Arizona, we’re going to be expanding our television buy and dramatically expanding our direct mail and digital advertising programs by over $2 million,” Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook said in a press call Monday.

“Donald Trump’s hateful rhetoric and deeply disrespectful remarks about Sen. John McCain have made Arizona more competitive. This is a state that would really foreclose a path for Donald Trump to win the White House,” Mook said.

He said the coordinated campaign efforts are only a part of a much larger strategy that includes making all of the national campaign’s 455 offices in battleground states around the country available to Democratic candidates there.

“By our calculation, the coordinated campaign has run over $100 million in program benefiting these House, Senate, gubernatorial and local candidates,” Mook said.

In Arizona, the campaign looks to help Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Flagstaff, in her bid to unseat five-term Republican McCain in the Senate race. McCain had refused to rebuke Trump – the GOP nominee who criticized McCain for his Vietnam war service, among other attacks – but said earlier this month that he could not vote for Trump after videos emerged of Trump making lewd and sexist comments.

Mook said the campaign is also particularly interested in helping down-ticket Democrats in the 1st and 2nd House districts. Democrat Tom O’Halleran is running against Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu to replace Kirkpatrick in the 1st District, while Democrat Matt Heinz is challenging first-term Rep. Martha McSally, R-Tucson, in the 2nd District.

Republicans and Democrats in Arizona agreed that the Clinton campaign is sending a message by investing in a state that doesn’t usually get attention from Democrats – but they differed on whether that message would be heard, and how loudly.

The move has energized Democratic Party staff and volunteers because it shows the state is in play this year, said Arizona Democratic Party spokesman Enrique Gutierrez.

“It just generates more excitement,” Gutierrez said. “Prospects of us winning are there.”

But Tim Sifert, an Arizona Republican Party spokesman, called the Clinton strategy poorly thought out, because Republican voters historically “turn out more than Democratic voters do,” and “the Republican Party in Arizona has a 5 percent lead in voter registration.”

Mike Noble, a political consultant in the state, said the Clinton money may be too late in the cycle to make a difference.

“Where we’re sitting at, a lot of people have already made up their minds,” Noble said. “The money itself won’t move the needle a great deal, but it sends a strong message about how confident the Democrats feel.”

But another consultant said the push could still have an impact on the election in Arizona.

“I think it has a significant impact on Congressional District 1 where the Democrat is well-positioned anyways,” Rose said. “I think that race benefits the most. But I don’t think it does a damn thing in John McCain’s race because it’s John McCain.”

And Rose does not think the idea of Clinton winning Arizona is too far-fetched.

“Like husband, like wife,” he said. “Bill Clinton was the only Democrat to win the state since Harry Truman. Success in Arizona runs in that household.”

– Cronkite News video