President Biden not only made history in 2020 for being the oldest person ever elected to the White House.
He also became just the second Democrat in the past seven decades — following President Bill Clinton in 1996 — to carry Arizona in a presidential election.
After nearly three-quarters of a century of Republican dominance in Arizona, Democrats the past two cycles scored some major victories, starting with then-Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s razor-thin victory in 2018 and Biden’s edging of former President Donald Trump in the state in 2020.
Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly flipped a Republican-held Senate seat in that same election and won a full six-year term in the 2022 midterms, as the Democrats swept the Senate, gubernatorial, secretary of state and attorney general contests in November against Trump-backed GOP nominees.
So what happened in Arizona?
Demographics are a key part of the equation.
The state’s soaring Latino population has altered the state’s electorate. And the conventional wisdom was that the growing importance of the Hispanic vote would turn the state toward the Democrats.
“It turns out the Latino voter did not get that memo. And they don’t necessarily perform that way or register that way,” longtime Arizona-based Republican consultant Stan Barnes told Fox News, pointing toward gains the GOP made among Latino voters in Arizona and across the nation in recent election cycles.
Arizona is one of the fastest growing states in the nation, and Barnes spotlighted another demographic factor.
“A lot of that growth is Californians. And even though they’re leaving the People’s Republic of California over its tax and regulatory restrictions,” he argued, “they still carry some of their progressive politics with them, and it shows in the election results.”
The migration from California and other states has also contributed to the movement of suburban voters in Arizona from Republicans to Democrats since Trump first won the White House in 2016.
Barnes also highlighted candidate quality for the Democrats’ success in recent years.
“When Democrats run statewide in Arizona, they run as center right as they possibly can,” he stressed. “If you heard them campaigning, you’d think they’re Republicans. They have had good candidates the past two cycles, and we’ve put up some folks that were easily marginalized.”
Arizona-based Democratic strategist Stacy Pearson was more blunt.
“These vitriolic, tin foil hat wearing, election denying Republican maniacs are not succeeding in Arizona, and that’s not a result of increased power among Democrats. It’s that they’re not appealing to their own base, they’re not appealing to the Republicans in Arizona,” Pearson argued.
Looking to next year, Arizona will once again be a crucial general election battleground state in the race for the White House. And Republicans — as they aim to regain the Senate majority — are eyeing Sinema’s seat. Rep. Ruben Gallego’s seeking the Democratic nomination, and Sinema, now an independent, has yet to say if she’ll seek another term.
Despite the Democratic gains in recent years, Barnes says Arizona’s “electorate is still center right, and I guess that’s what makes us jump ball. That’s what makes us purple.”
Pearson emphasized that “we are not a purple state, and we remain pink.”
The strategist, a longtime Sinema ally, highlighted that “moderate Democrats have won in Arizona, but progressives have not.” And she warned that “folks who assume that Arizona’s gotten more progressive do so at their own peril.”