Pollster Mike O’Neil discusses political trends that will put Arizona in the National spotlight.
Ted Simons: Coming up next on "Arizona Horizon," a local pollster tells us about some Arizona political trends that could have national implications. We'll hear from a state Senator who wants to move up to Congress. And we catch up with part-time Arizona resident singer and songwriter Melanie. Those stories next on "Arizona Horizon." Good evening. Welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Governor Brewer's office is not releasing a copy of the letter she gave President Obama yesterday. The letter purportedly asks for a meeting with the president. the governor's office says it will not release the letter because it is a personal, handwritten note. Some public experts say that by not releasing the letter, the governor could be violating the state's public records law. A law that allows disabled students to attend private schools at public expense was upheld today by a Maricopa County superior court. The judge ruled that because money for the students goes into a scholarship fund first and then to parents, the money is controlled by the parents and thus within the limits of the constitution. There are several Arizona political events and trends that could make a big impact nationally. So says the Tempe-based pollster Michael O'Neill, who joins us now to talk about Arizona's place in the political landscape.
Michael O'Neil: Good to be here.
Ted Simons: Let's start with the special election primary an general for Gabrielle Giffords's seat there. That could be a big indicator.
Michael O'Neil: I think it's huge. We're in the middle of a presidential year. That seat is absolutely down the middle equal Republican, equal Democrat. All over the country they are going to be looking for an indication which way the winds will be blowing. This June it will be in Arizona and we'll with the best indicator in Arizona with real people voting democrat against republican in a seat that's a 50/50 toss-up.
Ted Simons: there's no incumbent in the primary in general.
Michael O'Neil: If there was an incumbent it would be about the advantage of that. This is the absolutely perfect barometer of what's going on in the country.
Ted Simons: Now much of CD8 kinds of moves over into a kind of congressional district come the fall but redistricting, we have CD2 that will become CD4. CD9, the brand new district, we'll talk to David Schapira here in a second he wants that seat, these are all relative, I mean these are good indicators as well.
Michael O'Neil: Three districts all 50/50, the three competitive ones, and all of them without an incumbent. That's about as many open seats genuinely competitive as anywhere in the country. You throw in the U.S. Senate, that makes Arizona a very interesting place to watch this fall.
Ted Simons: Okay, let's keep it going here there are other things as well. We had the president in town yesterday. The president doesn't stop by for no reason whatsoever. That was no fluke. Is Arizona at play in terms of the presidential election?
Michael O'Neil: I think in the Democrats' dreams. It's at the outer reaches of the possible. Think 2008 the way we thought of Virginia or North Carolina. They were states that had not been carried by a Democrat in a long time but the Obama people figured out they had a shot there. They made a play, they took them. I think Arizona is about that level. I'm not saying it's a toss-up. We still have about a 5% Republican edge, but if you were to look throughout the country for one state where Obama lost last time with the exception of Missouri which was a toss-up. They were counting votes three weeks later, among the states that Obama did not carry there is no state where he has as good a chance as Arizona.
Ted Simons: So even if he doesn't have that good of a chance you're saying as well, correct me if I'm wrong, just by making the attempt, by fighting the fight, that sends a message.
Michael O'Neil: Otherwise the narrative is Obama is playing 100% defense. He's just trying to hang on by his fingernails to enough states that he carried last time to have 270 electoral votes. Arizona is offense, going somewhere where you haven't been before. Even if he loses I think he gets credit for the attempt.
Ted Simons: And some of this effort radiates to neighboring states as well which could possibly be more in play.
Michael O'Neil: And there is an arithmetic. Obama could lose Florida, he could lose Ohio, he could lose Virginia, he could lose North Carolina. If he picks up Arizona and holds the other western states that he carried, which is Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada, 270.
Ted Simons: Interesting. Let's go to the Republican side. The Republican primarily, presidential preference election here in Arizona, kind of considered ho-hum for a while. Romney and the rest of the field. Not so ho-hum any more.
Michael O'Neil: Not so ho-hum and one other thing makes it real interesting. Between February 7th and February 28th, when we have our primary, there's nothing going on. 28, we share with Michigan. We will only have half that platform, but for three weeks, all Arizona and Michigan and followed immediately by Super Tuesday, that date looks pretty exciting for us.
Ted Simons: Does Gingrich have a chance in Arizona? Against a Romney, does he really have much of a chance?
Michael O'Neil: I think the tea party and the far right is big in Arizona Republican circles. This is Arizona primary voters. I think that's tailor made for him like South Carolina. I would not discount him.
Ted Simons: So again even if the polls show Romney would have a big lead in Arizona, again, just fighting the fight puts Arizona on the board? Puts us in the national spotlight here for a few weeks as you mentioned.
Michael O'Neil: We have one presidential debate scheduled. If you want another one I bet you could get three or four people to show up.
Ted Simons: And the debate itself, you talked about the primary, the debate it's self is going to be a bigger deal than maybe some had thought. So interesting times in Arizona politics?
Michael O'Neil: Absolutely.
Ted Simons: Very good. Good to have you here. We'll probably get you back here to try and figure out where we're headed once we get all these events under way.