Arizona Primary

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Brooks Simpson, an Arizona State University Foundation Professor of History in the School of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies, will discuss Arizona’s upcoming presidential preference election, including why the election is important to the national primary process and what it will mean for both parties. He will also discuss what we can learn from previous presidential elections.

Ted Simons: Coming up next on "Arizona Horizon," we'll discuss the history and impact of the state's presidential preference election.

Ted Simons: And we'll hear about an upcoming performance by the Phoenix Symphony Chorus. That's next on "Arizona Horizon."

Video: "Arizona Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the Friends of Arizona PBS, members of your PBS station. Thank you.

Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Arizona Horizon," I'm Ted Simons. A new poll released by veteran pollster Bruce Merrill looks at head-to-head matchups between presidential candidates and the results show that the state is very much up for grabs among the current crop of contenders. In a race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the numbers show that Arizona voters are evenly divided, with 9% choosing neither and 15% undecided. A head-to-head matchup between Clinton and Ted Cruz shows a statistical dead heat, with Cruz at 41%, Clinton at 35%, but with 10% opting for neither and 14% undecided. In an election between Trump and Bernie sanders, it's another statistical dead heat, with sanders at 39% and Trump at 36%, with 7% for neither and 18% undecided. The Merrill poll also asked voters their preference in a U.S. senate race between incumbent John McCain and Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick. The result, another statistical dead heat, with McCain 41%, Kirkpatrick 40% and 16% undecided. And finally, the Merrill poll asked voters if they approved of the job governor Doug Ducey is doing in office. 52% gave the governor a positive rating, 34% are dissatisfied, and 14% had no opinion, which means among those with an opinion, the governor receives 60% approval.

Ted Simons: Many of the aforementioned presidential candidates will be appearing in Arizona over the next few days, this in anticipation of Tuesday's presidential preference election. But what will Arizona's vote mean to the Republican and Democratic races? Joining us now is presidential historian Brooks Simpson, an ASU foundation professor of history in the school of historical, philosophical, and religious studies. And you, of course, will have all the answers for us won't you?

Brooks Simpson: That's what they tell me.

Ted Simons: The impact of this primary in general on the nominating process. How big a deal is Tuesday going to be?

Brooks Simpson: I think Tuesday was going to be a bigger deal had last Tuesday turned out differently. I think this is now a confirming primary for both the democratic and Republican candidates. Now with Marco Rubio no longer a Republican contender, we will see where those votes will go and whether Trump can get above 40, 45% of the popular vote. Hillary Clinton comes into the state with a sizable lead over Bernie Sanders.

Ted Simons: Indeed. Let's start with the Democrats. Does this kind of basically show if Bernie Sanders can pull a Latino vote?

Brooks Simpson: This is going to be one of the key tests for Bernie Sanders if he can pull non-white voters from anywhere and he's been unable to do that by and large so far. Hillary Clinton has done a much better job of attracting a diverse electorate.

Ted Simons: As far as the Republicans are concerned, is this Trump's opportunity to prove that he can handle it in a bellwether Republican state?

Brooks Simpson: Trump's positions on immigration appeal with a good portion of the Republican base and he can show he can go up against Ted Cruz and John Kasich together and dominate these results.

Ted Simons: So what do you make of this primary season?

Brooks Simpson: Well, I think it's been tremendously interesting in that all the conventional wisdom has been stood on its head and that one reason in fact, that the Republicans establishment, never been actually defined for me, has reacted so slowly to the Trump candidacy, they were not prepared for this at all. And now, they have to deal with the consequences.

Ted Simons: Are you surprised they were not prepared for this? This is more than a groundswell. This is an angry reaction that I would imagine those voices should have been heard along the way.

Brooks Simpson: Well, in fact, I think a lot of Republicans had, you know, something to do with much of that angry voice for the last seven plus years. They have been pounding away at the President of the United States and questioning the legitimacy of the process, his title to his office. So you are now reaping what you have sown.

Ted Simons: Have we seen anything like it in the past?

Brooks Simpson: We have seen outside candidates but still within the party come and surprise the party establishment, Jimmy Carter in 1976 and Barry Goldwater, 1964. They would not have been anticipated at the beginning as viable candidates and yet, when conventions met, there they were.

Ted Simons: But did we have the establishment -- '64 was Goldwater, it's an interesting time but it seemed like the establishment said all right, he's our guy. I mean, we're not crazy about him but he's our guy. '76 Carter, Democrats said we don't know who this guy is but he's our guy. Republicans almost -- establishment Republicans are saying this is not our guy, Donald Trump.

Brooks Simpson: No, and I think they understand that Trump is a loose cannon and they don't want to be held accountable for what he might say or tweet or whatever. And that Trump marches to his own beat and that's something that petrifies Republicans. He's not going to be a candidate that they can manage in any way whatsoever.

Ted Simons: Brokered convention?

Brooks Simpson: That's still got a good possibility on the Republican side because although Trump has done well in these primaries, he has to take the momentum and win those winner take all states. I think a brokered convention isn't as likely as some other people say because of the winner take all nature of primaries on out including Arizona's.

Ted Simons: If Trump gets the nomination and, all of a sudden, we see the quote/unquote third party, establishment Republicans with a third party candidate, what does that do to the Republican party?

Brooks Simpson: It actually shatters the Republican Party, because if your party insiders become your party outsiders all of a sudden, who do the people on the Republican national committee do they support? Do they resign from the party they recognize? Because Trump will have control of the shell of the Republican Party. These Republicans have to hustle to get on the ballot as third party people altogether, and then the Senate candidates are those insider or outsider candidates, people like John McCain in Arizona, is he a Trump Republican or an anti-trump Republican?

Ted Simons: As far as Democrats are concerned, Bernie Sanders I'm sure at the convention he will get a chance to speak. What has he done as far as Hillary Clinton's campaign and as far as the Democratic Party is concerned?

Brooks Simpson: I think oddly enough while Bernie Sanders is in some ways frustrating Hillary Clinton, it's made her a better campaigner in certain ways. In 2008 when she ran, she took too many things for granted and ended up losing to an upstart senator from Illinois. This time with an upstart senator from Vermont of advanced age, she now understands she has to sharpen her message and she's already anticipating the kind of attacks she's going to have to deal with in the fall.

Ted Simons: As far as the general election is concerned, whether it's Hillary Clinton and Trump, Clinton and Cruz, Clinton and someone else we don't know, for Democrats it seems like turnout is the key. Is it going to be the key?

Brooks Simpson: It's going to be very important and this is where the Sanders factor is going to be curious because right now, there are Sanders supporters who claim that if their candidate does not secure the democratic nomination, I think that unlikely, that they will not vote in the fall election. Democrats have always talked about the importance of turnout but, in fact, it's been the Republicans, in 2004, who used turnout in surprising ways to secure that year in George W. bush's re-election.

Ted Simons: Will vice presidential candidates, usually, they don't seem like they matter all that much. Could they matter this time?

Brooks Simpson: I don't think so. I think we always think that they're going to matter, and then if they matter, they matter in a negative sense, they're an embarrassment, that they do something wrong or something like that. And we've seen that where both parties, what you want is someone who doesn't hurt you.

Ted Simons: So start with the Republicans. Donald Trump. Can he win the general? I think the Ohio and Missouri showed more people actually voted for trump in those primaries than voted for Clinton. Some Democrats may have crossed over to vote for Trump but he does have a shot doesn't he?

Brooks Simpson: He definitely has a shot, and I think, in fact, the only way for a Democrat to approach this is to assume that he does have a shot. In fact, it's because many Republican insiders thought that Trump didn't have a shot at the nomination that he's walking towards the nomination. They're taking him seriously. Democrats need to take him seriously now and need to take seriously what motivates his supporters and see how they're going to counter that either by turning out more of their own voters or by addressing the needs of those Trump supporters.

Ted Simons: You're a presidential historian. I've asked if you've seen anything like this before. Let's say Trump wins the presidency. Have we seen a president of that nature in office? Ever?

Brooks Simpson: We have seen some very interesting wild people as president. They tended to br actors too. Andrew Jackson, for example, was known to blow a fuse and turn around and smile. We've had other people come in and immediately change their political beliefs in the eyes of many people, John Tyler, Andrew Johnson. But in terms of his bombastic personality who knows no boundaries and does not seek to do anything, even though he wants to build a wall, Donald Trump is certainly something new.

Ted Simons: It's something to watch, as well. Great insight. Good to have you here, thanks for joining us.

Brooks Simpson: Thanks.

Brooks Simpson:Arizona State University Foundation Professor of History

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