Why are Michele Bachmann and Mitt Romney campaigning early in Arizona?
Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann were both in Arizona Wednesday, wooing voters and endorsements. Arizona's primary isn't among the earliest, but the state may yet prove to be pivotal.
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Governor Perry, on the other hand, would benefit from Arizona’s tea party clout, Sabato says. But if Bachmann stays in the race for the long haul, she could split that vote with the Texas candidate, he adds.Skip to next paragraph
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Sabato, like some other political analysts, no longer sees Sarah Palin – who recently bought a house in Arizona – as a viable candidate. “She is unlikely to win the GOP nomination this late in the game,” he says of the 2008 Republican vice-presidential nominee.
Though the tea party is strong in parts of Arizona, such as Maricopa County, moderate Republicans also are active and could be play an important role in a statewide GOP primary, says political scientist Tom Volgy. He also notes that roughly one-third of Arizona voters are registered independents, and they are eligible to vote in the GOP primary.
“It may be a really interesting test to see whether someone like Romney would then be able to do well in the state, compared with Governor Perry or Michele Bachmann,” says Mr. Volgy, who teaches political science at the University of Arizona in Tucson and is a former Democratic mayor of that city.
“There’s a strong recognition, at least on Romney’s part, you can’t go that far to the right and be as viable in the general election,” Volgy says.
Romney's and Bachmann’s visits to Arizona set the stage for continuing debate of issues close to Arizona’s heart that are also likely to strike a chord nationally. Among them: border security, a downed economy, and illegal immigration.
If candidates fail to handle with care highly volatile issues such as illegal immigration, offering sensible solutions, they could be seen as pandering to Arizonans, Volgy warns. “It could significantly backfire on them.”
On Wednesday, both Romney and Bachmann vowed to combat illegal immigration, saying they would build a border fence and take other steps, such as reducing in-state tuition programs for students who are in the country illegally.
Arizona had considered moving its primary to Jan. 31 to give the state a higher profile in the GOP nominating process, but Gov. Jan Brewer (R) decided against the controversial move. The Republican National Committee has tentatively approved a presidential debate in the state.
"Arizona will be a player in determining our nation's next president," the governor says in a statement. "Over the next 14 months, the candidates would be wise to meet with our voters and become familiar with our issues."
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