Arizonans reluctant to open wallets for Trump, Clinton campaigns

Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump made repeated visits to Arizona, a state often overlooked in presidential elections. But those visits did not turn into campaign donations for either campaign, with giving by state residents down sharply this year. (Clinton photo by Ben Moffat/Cronkite News; Trump photo by Gage Skidmore/Creative Commons)

WASHINGTON – Arizonans head to the polls Tuesday to cast actual ballots for president, but if they were voting with their pocketbooks the results wouldn’t be pretty for either of the major parties’ nominees.

The most recent campaign finance reports from the Federal Election Commission show that Arizona residents gave about half as much to presidential campaigns in this election, donating a total of $11.2 million, as they did four years ago, when they gave $21.9 million.

Arizona’s drop in giving comes as donations overall this year were keeping pace with the 2012 election, with a total of $1.3 billion donated by this point in the campaign both times.

Experts said the drop in funding reflects two things: the unpopularity of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and GOP nominee Donald Trump, and the favorable feelings toward 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney. He single-handedly raised more in Arizona than all 24 presidential candidates who got a donation from an Arizona resident this year.

“This is certainly an unusual year in a lot of ways,” said Vanessa Williamson, a fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution. “This is such period of flux of how campaigns are being run.”

As of Oct. 19, the latest date for which numbers are available, Clinton reported raising $3.7 million from Arizona and Trump reported $2.3 million in donations from the state.

The other $5.2 million were raised by Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vermont, a dozen Republicans and other challengers and third-party candidates, most of which went to unsuccessful primary campaigns.

Romney, by contrast, had raised more than $13.8 million from Arizona by the end of his unsuccessful 2012 campaign.

Rodolfo Espino, an Arizona State University political science professor, said that level of giving was not surprising, given the enthusiasm Arizonans had for Romney. Espino remembers seeing “Romney for President” signs before the eventual Republican nominee had even made his candidacy official.

There’s nothing like that this time around, he said.

Grudgingly giving

Roll over the map to see how much Arizona residents gave to the Clinton and Trump campaigns this year, by ZIP code block. (To create the map, a single ZIP code was designated, but each one represents the entire block, e.g., 86002 represents all ZIP codes beginning with 860xx):

“Part of it has to do with enthusiasm on Republican side,” Espino said. “They don’t see Trump as a way to drive the country.”

Espino said Arizonans don’t have any closer connection to Clinton.

“Do you vote, or give to Hillary or do you stay home?” Espino asked.

Josh Stewart, a spokesman for the Sunlight Foundation, agrees that Romney’s favorability kept the money flowing from Arizona in 2012.

“If you put 2012 as a bench mark, Trump isn’t anywhere close,” Stewart said of the Republican candidates campaigning in Arizona.

But it wasn’t just Romney. President Barack Obama raised $6.5 million from Arizona residents by the end of his re-election campaign, more than Trump and Clinton together had raised three weeks out from the election.

Even though giving has dropped, Espino noted that it has shifted from strongly Republican toward the Democrats. When all candidates are added in, the GOP got $5.7 million from Arizona to the Democrats’ $5.4 million in the last FEC report.

“Three months ago, Arizona was solid red and now it’s a pink state,” Espino said.

Williamson said the drop in funding from Arizona and the leveling off of funding nationally tells a larger story.

“There is not a very positive story about what these campaigns conceive,” Williamson said.

But, she said, raising money is still important to the candidates who hope to prevail Tuesday.

“This money turns into votes a lot of the time,” Williamson said.