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BONNIE GREER: Clock ticking for Trump’s Arizona shoot-out

US president Donald Trump. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire/PA Images - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

BONNIE GREER discusses the importance of Donald Trump winning the presidency vote in Arizona.

There is something about the state of Arizona, there is always a kind of question about it. It is undoubtedly the West but unlike, say, Texas there is something that is difficult to pin down.

But a kind of answer could lie in the fact that about one-quarter of the state is made up of what are called Indian reservations. Nations.

Arizona is the home of 27 federally-recognised Native American tribes, including the Navajo Nation, with its 300,000 citizens. Many Navajo enlisted during the Second World War, some of them contributing to a new military code based on the Navajo language whose practitioners were known as Navajo Code Talkers. Commended for its speed and accuracy, this code lasted until the beginning of the Vietnam War and was never been broken. Yet even though indigenous people were given the right to vote in 1924 by the Federal government, Arizona indigenous people, a large swathe of the population and American citizens, did not gain that right until 1948.

Or maybe an answer to the Arizona Question lies in the vintage, classic and modern films about Arizona or set or filmed there: Stagecoach (1939), Duel In The Sun (1946), Bus Stop (1956), Psycho (1960); Easy Rider (1969) or that most-Arizona of vintage films, 3:10 To Yuma (1957). Then there are the modern and more recent movies: Raising Arizona (1987), Into The Wild (2007), Thelma and Louise (1991) riding into oblivion.

Maybe we can find an answer to Arizona in the pop and rap songs about it that range from the menacing: “I’m on the one mission/To get a politician/To honor or he’s a goner/By the time I get to Arizona” (By the Time I Get to Arizona, Public Enemy)….

To the melancholy: “By the time I get to Phoenix, she’ll be rising/She’ll find the note I left hangin’ on her door/She’ll laugh when she reads the part that says I’m leavin’/’Cause I’ve left that girl” (By the Time I Get to Phoenix, Glen Campbell)….

Right through to the jolly: “Jojo was a man who thought he was a loner/But he knew it couldn’t last/Jojo left his home in Tucson, Arizona/For some California grass” (Get Back, The Beatles)….

All the way to Arizona in excelsis: “Well, I’m a standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona/And such a fine sight to see/It’s a girl, my lord, in a flatbed Ford/Slowin’ down to take a look at me” (Take It Easy, The Eagles).

All these films and songs are a kind of answer about Arizona for someone somewhere. But there remains one big question, one vital to the outcome of the American election and could affect whether Donald Trump is cruising to victory or heading for defeat. The question is this: will Arizona stay red or turn blue in 2020?

In the States the colour red connotes the right; the colour blue the left. Roughly the Republicans and the Democrats. Arizona was admitted to the Union in 1912 and has participated in every presidential election since. It has voted for Republicans 19 times and for Democrats nine. The last Democrat for president to win this State was Bill Clinton in 1996. Before that, FDR, in 1944. Neither JFK nor LBJ won Arizona. Arizona has voted for the man who eventually won the White House 21 times. It has only voted for the loser six times.

Trump got 1,252,401 to Hillary Clinton’s 1,161,167 votes – 49.03% to 45.46% in the state of Arizona. Once again, they picked the winner. And once again, Democrats got their asses handed to them in Arizona. Plus, the last Democrat elected to the Senate until last year was Dennis DeConcini, who served from 1977 until he retired in 1995.

Add to this mix, accusations of voter fraud involving mysteriously reduced polling places, and you had a perfect recipe for a Republican sweep in the 2018 midterms. But this did not happen.

All of Arizona’s nine seats in the United States House of Representatives, as in every other state of the Union, were up for re-election. The Democrats took one seat off the Republicans. In Arizona’s second congressional district.

This district, considered rural and fairly conservative, was rock solid Republican. Yet the House seat flipped to the Democrats who got 54% of the vote to the Republicans’ 45%. That seat went to Ann Kirkpatrick, a pro-choice, gun control advocate. The second district is also home to the Hopi Nation.

I like to think that they turned out in their droves.

Also, last year, Arizonan Democrat Kyrsten Sinema was elected to the Senate, the first from her party in decades; the first woman from Arizona to be elected to the Upper House, as well as one of the first openly LBGT politicians. She defeated Republican Martha McSally, with 50% of the vote to 47.6%. McSally was later appointed to fill the late senator John McCain’s term.

Sinema informed vice president Mike Pence at her swearing-in ceremony that she did not want to put her hand on 
the Bible, but rather the Constitution and the Constitution of the state of Arizona. She is a 100% ‘Blue Dog’ Democrat, or centrist. Hardly one of the Republicans’ stereotyped ‘lefties’. With her election, and further indications that the state might be becoming more diverse, Trump may need to take that 3:10 To Yuma.

The president’s problem in Arizona is twofold: Arizona politics are dominated by the rivalry between its two largest counties: Maricopa and Pima, home to Phoenix and Tucson, respectively.

They contain two thirds of the state’s population, and 80% of its vote comes from there. Pima is Democrat. The suburbs are Republican, but a more moderate brand than the party has in the Phoenix area.

Marcicopa County has 60% of the state’s population. It has voted Republican in every presidential election since 1948.

Maricopa gave Democrat Sinema 51.0% of the vote. This is one of the major reasons that she won.

Trump just needs one more vote than his opponent in the electoral college to win re-election. So he is sticking close to the Trump Archipelago: Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Iowa, states he must carry.

But his inability to get above 45% approval after 900 days in office, an unprecedented feat by the way, is sending warning signals. Most pollsters tell us to pay attention to Iowa and Pennsylvania.

But the self-styled ‘stable genius’ might need to heed the words to Frankie Laine’s song from the original 1957 film, 3:10 to Yuma, and get himself to Arizona instead, even though:

“…there ain’t a soul that you know there

When the 3.10 to Yuma whistles its sad refrain

Take that train

Take that train.”

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