Newsweek reported late yesterday that senior Obama advisers are discussing a possible visit to Arizona by the candidate during his Western swing-state tour this weekend, heightening the excitement of Democrats here and stoking the momentum that has been building in the state in recent days. Obama spokesman David Plouffe announced this morning that the campaign will be buying air time for the first time in Arizona and will run the campaign's closing ad. Five polls released over the last week declared the presidential race in Arizona a statistical dead heat.
When CBS asked Obama campaign Senior Adviser Robert Gibbs whether or not Obama might make a personal appearance in Arizona, he downplayed the possibility but would not rule it out.
Obviously we've seen a number of public polls as you guys have in the past few days that show -- not surprisingly -- a close race in Arizona and it's something that we'll watch.
Spokesperson Emily DeRose of the Arizona Democratic Party only had this to say:
We've certainly had discussions with the Obama campaign about steps to make Arizona more competitive.
On a campaign conference call this morning, Shannon Gilson, an Obama spokesperson at the Chicago headquarters, also played down the idea of a personal visit from Barack Obama, while holding the possibility open. Both she and Obama's Arizona Communications Director Dave Cieslak would only say that although there are no current plans for an Obama visit to Arizona, the campaign assesses each state on a daily basis to determine where campaign resources would be most effective.
Regardless of the psychological benefits of a foray deep into McCain territory, it may not be possible (or wise) for Obama to make a visit to Arizona at this late stage of the game. With only five days left and battleground races tightening up, giving up an appearance in a state whose race is narrower would be a risky move. In the final days, the focus will likely be on states considered essential for the win.
More important, the impetus is already on the side of Democrats in Arizona. Just knowing the race is close has had an unmistakable effect. The Arizona Obama headquarters in Phoenix was overflowing with people this morning. Volunteers were busy making phone calls, working on computers, dashing from corner to corner, working on scores of projects.
Every demographic is represented in the Obama office: older, younger, middle-aged, white, Hispanic, African-American, Asian-American, and more. A group of children came into the office wanting to donate a collection of coins they had taken up in class. Obama Communications Director Dave Cieslak said,
The polls are creating a level of excitement that we haven't seen before. The promise and hope that Arizonans could help put Barack Obama in the White House has our offices packed with people.
Democratic momentum in Arizona is tremendous -- and this recent polling only magnifies that.
Some of the enthusiasm was also driven by the hordes of Arizonans receiving robcalls from the McCain-Palin campaign on Wednesday. Stephen, a Vietnam veteran in Phoenix who was the recipient of a robocall from McCain on Wednesday said,
I was inspired to donate 50 bucks to Obama and take off work Election Day to do volunteer work for Obama. Thanks for the inspiration McSame. If things are that bad for you, maybe my extra effort will make a difference.
The Obama campaign used the opportunity to ask supporters to increase their support. Obama's National Field Director Jon Carson wrote on the Arizona for Obama blog,
[McCain's robocalls are] a desperate move, but we need to respond and keep our momentum going. If enough of you take the time to get involved and do your part, we could pull a real upset .... Supporters like you have put us within striking distance. Now it's time to pull off what no one expected.
Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano wrote an email to supporters today that said,
As election day approaches, the people who know John McCain best are rejecting him.
Kelly Larabee of Phoenix received two calls, one Wednesday and another Thursday. She said,
It's strikes me that even home in Arizona -- these RNC/McCain messages are from nameless voices spreading fear against Obama, not friends with trusted voices giving reasons to build support for Senator McCain. But alas, I understand the robocall volume in Wisconsin is relentless and I guess we can take slight comfort in knowing that even in this case McCain's not working very hard for Arizona.
Obama's Deputy Economic Policy Director, Brian Deese, said today that Barack Obama has also gained support in Arizona because of his aggressive agenda to stabilize the economy and the real estate market -- perhaps the most pressing issue in McCain's home state. Arizonans have been hit particularly hard by declining home prices and the mortgage crisis. Obama has called for a 90 day moratorium on foreclosures for families who are making a good faith effort to pay their mortgages. Deese said that Obama's plan is aimed squarely at providing relief for the middle class, while McCain's plan would create windfall profits for banks with the cost falling on the shoulders of taxpayers.
Arizona's demographics have changed dramatically for the same reasons that its real estate market changed dramatically. During the real estate boom, a massive influx of home buyers migrated to Arizona, many coming from the uber-Democratic state of California. Home sales skyrocketed, along with the prices of real estate in Arizona. When the real estate market crashed, Arizona's real estate market suffered one of the worst drops in the nation.
Kelly from Central Phoenix says,
I cheered the fact that the McCain campaign is in Arizona defending the home turf. I live in central Phoenix where Obama signs and stickers outnumber McCain's by 10-1. I think we are the folks who best know that John McCain has not been great for Arizona. Our progress (economic development, etc.) is despite our Senator, not because of him.
After five polls showed John McCain's home state of Arizona to be a statistical tie over the last several days, the McCain-Palin campaign began must have begun to worry about winning Arizona. Wednesday, while Obama was airing his 30 minute prime time special, the McCain-Palin campaign began making robocalls into Arizona. Emails from robocall recipients were a mix of outrage, amusement and celebration.
Robin in Peeple's Valley said,
The robocall I received today is the first EVER of this type, for me, and it came through on my cellphone, not my landline. It makes me happy to know that McCain is afraid of losing his home state. I've been doing what I can to ensure that that's exactly what happens next week.
Although some Arizonans, like Robin (above) were happy to know that John McCain is being forced to spend resources in his home state, others were angry. Melinda in Tempe had this to say,
I can tell you I received a robocall from McCain saying very nasty things about Obama -- it came from 866-520-5796. ... I'd register my Greyhounds Democrat if I could.
Adrian in Mesa said,
The 'paid for' clause at the end is garbled; it's the equivalent of fine print.
From Andrea, a registered Independent in Arizona,
It made me ill. McCain is low for doing this. He has lost my vote PERMANENTLY!!!
Arizona has about 1.7 million voters, and Secretary of State Jan Brewer expects nearly 1.5 million (approximately 85%) to turn out to vote this year. Nearly 900,000 requested early ballots, and throughout this week, early voters have reported standing in long lines for an hour or more to vote in person.
Democratic Congressional candidates in Arizona have gone all in with the Obama campaign, which means they are also benefiting from the increased enthusiasm. Congressional candidate Bob Lord, who is vying for the Rep. John Shadegg's seat in the most hotly contested race in the state, has combined canvassing, phone banking, and other operations with the Obama campaign. Even candidates whose campaigns are all but guaranteed to win are working hand-in-hand with the Obama campaign. Rep. Raul Grijalva (CD-7) shares his re-election office in Tucson with the Obama campaign.
Andrew Eldredge-Martin, campaign manager for Democrat Bob Lord in Arizona's third Congressional district, had this to say today regarding the possibility of a visit from Barack Obama,
Barack Obama's efforts in Arizona would be a huge help. The excitement his campaign has created among Republicans, Independents, and Democrats alike is fueling huge enthusiasm for change here in Arizona, just like it is all over America. Recent Arizona polling suggests it is going to be a very exciting election day -- and some polling is showing Obama ahead in Maricopa county where [Arizona's third district] is. It'd be great to have him visit the state because there are so many Arizonans who want new leadership to change our nation's course on the economy, on national security, and on energy independence. Every race in Arizona will be based on turnout and that's where our energies are focused now through the election.
Even candidates for County races are excited about the increased attention that Arizona is getting. In Maricopa County (Phoenix), the Democratic Party is hoping to win a majority on the County Board in an effort to curb Sheriff Joe Arpaio. He's the sheriff with a "tent city" jail and regular immigration raids. Candidates for the Maricopa County Board, like Ed Hermes, are hoping that higher turnout (and increased donations to the Arizona Democratic Party) inspired by Barack Obama will help edge out their opponents.
Whatever happens, November 4th will be a long night for Arizona Republicans.