• Mitt Romney Surges Past Rick Santorum in Arizona Ahead of GOP Primary
    posted by Terry Greene Sterling at 28 February, 5:06 PM  0 
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    Courtesy of www.thedailybeast.com

    As Arizonans prepare to vote in Tuesday’s GOP primary, Romney snares Santorum supporters to lead by 17 points, boosted by Gov. Jan Brewer’s endorsement and undamaged by a scandal involving a gay campaign co-chairman.

    Mitt Romney has surged ahead of Rick Santorum in Arizona and is expected to ace the Grand Canyon State’s Republican presidential primary. In a Public Policy Poll released on the eve of the state’s GOP faceoff, 43 percent of likely voters said they’d vote for Romney, compared with 26 percent for Santorum, 18 percent for Newt Gingrich, and 11 percent for Ron Paul.

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    Romney has won over voters once thought to be Santorum loyalists—Tea Partiers, evangelicals, seniors, and those who view themselves as “very conservative,” the automated telephone poll of 515 likely Republican primary voters found.   Romney’s surge comes a day after Gov. Jan Brewer’s endorsement of him on Meet the Press. Five days before that, Romney had clobbered Rick Santorum in the Republican presidential debate. Days before that, Romney’s Arizona campaign co-chair, immigration-hawk-sheriff Paul Babeu, stepped down after being outed as gay by his Mexican immigrant boyfriend, but it has not seemed to slow the former Massachusetts governor’s momentum in the state.
    Romney remains virtually tied in Arizona with President Obama, who has surged as Democrats strategize to win over moderate Republicans and independents.
    The Romney surge is a humiliating slap-down for Santorum. Right before the Feb. 22 presidential debate, he and Romney were in a dead heat in Arizona

    Santorum may have focused “too much on social issues instead of the economy, which most Arizona [Republican primary] voters are interested in,” says Jim Williams, of Public Policy Polling, a North Carolina firm that polls often for Democrats. (PPP says the Arizona poll “was not paid for or authorized by any campaign or political organization.”)

    Governor Brewer also experienced an uptick in popularity after her famous airport-tarmac finger wag at Obama in late January. Her approval rating shot up about 10 points, to 46 percent. Now that she’s termed out, Brewer seems to be shifting her brand from electable immigration hawk to book-writing anti-Obama celeb, as evidenced by her confirmation on Sunday’s Meet the Press that she declined an invitation to dine with other governors at the White House. (She told David Gregory she had another commitment.)

    In explaining why she chose to endorse Romney, Brewer told Gregory: “I have had my debate there in Arizona.” Romney, in her mind, was the most electable guy.

    As national Republicans fret over who on their slate can beat Obama, Brewer’s nationally televised endorsement of Romney is likely tied to a party strategy that views Romney as the most electable candidate.

    Her endorsement probably helped Romney’s Arizona surge, since the PPP poll found that 25 percent of Arizona Republican primary voters are more likely to vote for a Brewer-endorsed candidate.

    Romney’s apparent lock on the Arizona presidential primary actually became noticeable when almost half of Republican primary voters cast their early ballots. The Romney campaign set up shop in Arizona about a year ago. (Santorum began seriously organizing in Arizona within the last month.)

    The Romney campaign faced a setback over a scandal surrounding the Pinal County sheriff Paul Babeu and immigration hardliner, who was outed by José Orozco, his former Mexican-immigrant boyfriend.

    Babeu stepped down from Team Romney, but continues his run for a Republican congressional seat. He faces an investigation and allegations of misconduct stemming from his professional relationship with Orozco, a campaign volunteer, the Arizona Republic reports. ABC News also reports that Babeu was headmaster of a school shut down after allegations of physical abuse, and that he was romantically involved with a student. The Romney campaign did not fight Babeu’s “choice” to resign.

    If Romney wins Arizona, the general election could be exciting. Pollster Jim Williams says the president and Romney are “basically tied” in Arizona, thanks to a long primary season (the more voters see the Republican candidates, the less they like them, he says) and an improvement in the economy that is “good for Obama.”

    In the general election Democrats hope to woo moderates and independents disenchanted by what they see as Republican extremism in Arizona. To this end, they’ll be scrutinizing Republican primary exit polls and comparing them with 2008 numbers. Jill Hanauer, president of the Denver-based Project New America, a Democratic research and strategy firm, says the best outcome for Dems will be that the Republican primary voters mostly self-identify as conservatives, while fewer moderates and independents vote in the primary, signaling disenchantment with the candidates.

    “This is what I am hoping for and expect will happen,” Hanauer says.

    Buoyed by Arizona voter-registration numbers that show a slight increase in GOP voters, Republicans find it “a little bit of a far reach” that Democrats will win Arizona in the fall, says Shane Wikfors, spokesman for the Arizona Republican Party.

    The Arizona GOP isn’t worried about the PPP poll that has Obama and Romney running a tight race because PPP polls for Democrats, Wikfors says. (PPP counters that it has a high accuracy rate overall and has been found to have a slight Republican bias.)

    “Our read,” says Wikfors, “is that we’ve picked up our voter-registration numbers, and this is a positive sign that Arizonans are liking our principles and values.”

    Romney has won over voters once thought to be Santorum loyalists—Tea Partiers, evangelicals, seniors, and those who view themselves as “very conservative.”

    Still, some Arizona Republicans, Wikfors says, were disappointed with Brewer’s endorsement of Romney.

    That doesn’t include Republican presidential candidate Al “Dick” Perry. A Tucson musician, freelance data-entry guy, and former hotel desk clerk, Perry decided on a whim to run against Romney et al in the Arizona Republican primary. He says he opted to get his name on the ballot because no fees or signatures were required, and “it was so easy to do, I figured, why not?’” He’s one of 23 candidates on the Republican presidential-primary ballot, he says, and his platform includes tax reform and abolishing corporate charters. A former Democrat, Perry confesses to feeling “kind of vile and unclean” and “subversive” about running as a Republican, but vows to change back to his original party once the primary election ends.

    Perry hopes to make a good showing, maybe come in behind Ron Paul. On the cusp of the state’s Republican primary, he jokes, he doesn’t feel snubbed by Brewer’s endorsement of favored winner Romney. Says Perry: “I didn’t endorse her, either.”

     

     

     


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    Bio: Journalist Terry Greene Sterling has lived in Arizona most of her life, and has reported on the political brawls and human tragedies that have long made Arizona the focus of national news. She was raised on an Arizona cattle ranch, and learned to speak Spanish at the same time she learned English. The author of Illegal, Life and Death in Arizona's Immigration War Zone, Sterling has been honored with more than 50 national and regional journalism awards. She was named Virg Hill Journalist of the Year, Arizona’s highest journalism honor, three times. She was a staff writer for Phoenix New Times for 14 years before branching out on her own. She is a contributor for The Daily Beast, and Writer-in-Residence at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. Her work has also appeared in The Washington Post, Newsweek.com, Salon.com, Rollingstone.com, The Nieman Narrative Digest, Phoenix Magazine, The Arizona Republic, Arizona Highways, High Country News, and Preservation Magazine. She tweets @tgsterling and blogs about immigration in Arizona at terrygreenesterling.com.


    Website: http://www.terrygreenesterling.com/

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