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Wed, 08 Jul 2020 12:14 - Updated Wed, 08 Jul 2020 12:14

Trump's troubles in Arizona mount with coronavirus surge

- Arizona has served as a southwestern bulwark for Republicans for decades, voting for a Democratic presidential candidate only once since 1948.

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But a surge of coronavirus cases in the state and President Donald Trump’s uneven response to the pandemic have compounded the troubles already facing his re-election bid.

Since Trump won Arizona in 2016, suburban voters in the country’s fastest-growing county, Maricopa, have soured on him, the state’s Democratic-leaning Latino population has continued growing and transplants from more liberal places have helped Democrats add 60,000 more voters to their rolls than Republicans.

Now the intensifying pandemic – Arizona on Tuesday reported its highest daily total of deaths yet – is endangering Trump’s support even among some Republican-leaning voters. Randy Olsen, 65, voted for Trump in 2016, but he plans to support Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden in the Nov. 3 election.

“He’s disrespecting the experts,” Olsen said of Trump’s response to the virus, noting his refusal to endorse face masks. “He’s looking out for himself only and isn’t looking out for anybody else.”

Chuck Coughlin, a Republican strategist in Phoenix, said Trump’s handling of the crisis was costing him with key demographics in Maricopa County, including older voters and well-educated suburban whites. The county includes more than half the state’s population.

“I expect it’s very damaging with that portion of the electorate that Trump needs to persuade,” Coughlin said.

Since the end of May, Biden, a former vice president, has led in four of five state polls and holds an average advantage of 3-1/2 percentage points in a state Trump carried by the same margin four years ago, according to the poll-tracking website RealClearPolitics.

Trump campaign spokeswoman Samantha Zager said the president’s record in Washington, plus the large Republican Party field operation in the state compared with Biden’s nascent team, would deliver Arizona for Trump again.

Trump chose Phoenix for his first official trip out of Washington after the pandemic in early May and returned two weeks ago. His campaign has more than 70 staffers on the ground and has held more than 2,000 events, Zager said.

But Biden’s campaign increasingly views Arizona as a top target, part of a growing national shift in his favor in recent months. Campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon told campaign volunteers that she mentions the state so often it has become a joke among her staff.

“It is a true battleground state for the presidential for the first time,” she told a Biden fundraiser two weeks ago.Reuters

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