AZ Presidential Preference Election

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Political consultant Stan Barnes of Copper State Consulting Group explains the process and purpose of Arizona’s presidential primary election.

Good evening, and welcome to "Arizona Horizon," I'm Ted Simons. Another state lawmaker has been accused of domestic violence. Representative Daniel Patterson of Tucson is accused of abuse by his ex-girlfriend, who is also Patterson's campaign manager. The woman filed an order of protection against Patterson. The state Democratic Party and several other Democratic lawmakers have called for Patterson to resign. A new poll shows Mitt Romney increasing his lead over Rick Santorum in Arizona. The survey shows Romney at 43% with Santorum at 26%. The poll was conducted yesterday by Public Policy Polling, a Democratic leaning firm. Indeed, Arizona's Republican presidential preference election does take place tomorrow. Here now to talk about how it all works is Stan Barnes from Copper State Consulting, a political consulting agency. Always good to see you, thanks for joining us. Why is this a political preference election and not just a good old Arizona primary? Is it all verbiage? Is it nomenclature? What's going on?

Stan Barnes: I think it's a little legalese and I think it's also an important nuance. We, Arizona, are not choosing the primary winner for the Republican Party. We're one part of a bunch of different states voting. I think the way you get there legally is to call it a preference rather than just a simple primary. In any regard, it came about the first time in 1996. I know that because when I was a state senator I sponsored the bill to get it done, one of the best things I ever did.

Ted Simons: Why did you do that? What was the goal?

Stan Barnes: The goal at the time was to make Arizona relevant in the presidential sweepstakes. At the moment, back in the mid 90's, we watched Iowa and watched New Hampshire get all of this love and attention and more than that set the agenda for policy kickoff. We wanted to be the New Hampshire of the west, that's how we thought of it back in the day. I remember Governor Symington at the time invoking the Governor of New Hampshire to send his troops to Arizona if we landed on their same day. New Hampshire was so mad about us choosing an early day, I learned quickly New Hampshire will always go earlier than Arizona. We finally surrendered and picked a day in February.

Ted Simons: This is always the same day, correct?

Stan Barnes: No, it's not always the same day. The Governor can select a date. If the Governor does not select a date, it falls on a day in law.

Ted Simons: I think it's the fourth Tuesday in February.

Stan Barnes: But the Governor can choose to make it earlier. And she almost did this year for the same reason, wanted to be relevant and all that. But through negotiations that I was not a part of she decided to keep it where it is.

Ted Simons: Is there a Democratic vote tomorrow?

Stan Barnes: No, there is not a Democratic vote.

Ted Simons: So when there is an incumbent president you don't have to have a vote, there is no sort of process you have to go through. It is to get a candidate on?

Stan Barnes: Right. That was part of the gripe of passing the bill in the first place so many years ago. It always benefits one party generally. And in this case the Republicans are the ones benefiting. Taxpayers are paying for this. But that's part of the cost of democracy, I guess.

Ted Simons: I believe there are a couple dozen people on the ballot technically? How do you get on the ballot?

Stan Barnes: I actually don't know the direct answer but I want to find out. Every four years I see that, how did a guy named Dick Perry get on there, not Rick Perry? You know it might be fun to be on the ballot but when I voted mine by mail, I saw them there. You have to dig through to find your candidate.

Ted Simons: The legislature is looking at a way to make it a little more problematic, at least gather some signatures to get your name on.

Stan Barnes: And how can somebody not qualify? Seems like every so often an important person does. And if Dick Perry can get on why not Rick Perry?

Ted Simons: Who can vote tomorrow?

Stan Barnes: Any registered Republican -- let me think this through. It's a pop question for me.

Ted Simons: You have to be a Republican, correct?

Stan Barnes: Yes. I get that sometimes confused with the rest of our elections system. In the presidential preference primary, independents don't get to vote, which they do in other primaries. This is a Republican-only affair, correct. I'm glad you pointed that out.

Ted Simons: So open primary provisions and independents, you're out of luck.
Stan Barnes: You're out of luck because this is the Republican Party nominating for a presidency. 5
Ted Simons: Write-in candidates not allowed correct?
Stan Barnes: I think they are allowed, but it simply won't matter.

Ted Simons: And no recounts. I mean it's a done deal. The process is over and it's a done deal.

Stan Barnes: Yeah, it's a done deal. Arizona is getting what it wants out of it. In other words, I think the idea of Arizona going earlier in the system has benefited us, looking over the three or four elections we've had since the bill passed in 1996. In other words, candidates are looking at Arizona now and we're getting to be a bigger state and starting to be more relevant in this most important decision. I'm glad we're doing it.

Ted Simons: It sounds as though that debate in Mesa last week really helped Romney, at least here in Arizona. He's got now a sizeable lead. It's pretty much his, isn't it?

Stan Barnes: We thought for a moment that Santorum might be surging in Arizona. Newt has folks here, but he decided not to play in Arizona, really. Santorum barely did. This is Mitt Romney territory, it's got to be If Mitt Romney for some weird reason loses Arizona, he's in big trouble. Michigan is all about him tomorrow because they have the same day as we do. If he loses Michigan, it's his place of birth, it's a big deal.

Ted Simons: Shouldn't he win with some bit of a margin?

Stan Barnes: He should. If he doesn't, it'll be said it's still game on with he and Santorum. If he loses, for some reason to Santorum, the whole applecart get turned over and the Republicans will be lost.

Ted Simons: Last question before we let you go. Obviously Romney has a big lead now we just talked about the recent poll. The Governor endorses Romney, John Huppenthal endorses Santorum. A bunch of other folks were in line earlier behind Romney. Do these endorsements mean all that much, especially when you got a bit of a lopsided race?

Stan Barnes: My own opinion is I don't think they mean a lot to the electorate. In the inside game of political figures that know and interact with one another, I think they mean a great deal. I think it's very important to Mitt Romney that the governor of Arizona endorses him. Will it mean a lot of change in the vote? Maybe not, because my experience is voters are pretty independent about that sort of thing. But Romney wanted to know that Governor Brewer was with him. I think it's a calculation on the governor's part that Mitt Romney is not only the guy she likes but the guy likely to win. If her friend is in the big chair in the oval office next year at this time, it'll be an important thing for Arizona.

Ted Simons: Good to see you, Stan, thanks for being with us.

Stan Barnes:Copper State Consulting Group

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