Arizona Primary Preview & Analysis

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Local pollster and political analyst Mike O’Neil of O’Neil Associates takes an in-depth look at what this past Tuesday’s presidential primaries mean for Arizona’s presidential preference election later this month.

Ted Simons: GOP frontrunner Donald Trump solidified his lead last night winning five of six state primaries and caucuses as Bernie Sanders pulled off a surprising win among Democrats in Michigan. Was it all mean and what could it mean for Arizona's primary on march 22? We asked pollster Mike O'Neil, owner of O'Neil & Associates. Good to see you again.

Mike O-Neil: Been a while.
Ted Simons: Good to have you. The Sanders win over Clinton, big surprise or just a surprise?

Mike O-Neil: Astounding surprise.

Mike O-Neil: How come?

Mike O-Neil: No poll had it anywhere near close. The closest poll showed Hillary Clinton up by 20 points.

Ted Simons: What happened?

Mike O-Neil: We don't know. We absolutely don't know. Now, I will say a couple of things about the polling. One is something I have been saying is bound to happen one of these days. Doing good polling is increasingly expensive and nobody is willing to pay for it. So you tend to get robo calls and a lot of other things. There were only four or five polls post New Hampshire. Anything prior to New Hampshire Bernie Sanders was down so much that it's not at all relevant. They were not done typically by the most -- highest ranked firms but still it was five out of five they all got it wrong. Notwithstanding that it was shocking.

Ted Simons: I heard some people saying maybe blue-collar whites may have voted for Democrats instead of for a Hillary Clinton either voted for Bernie Sanders or voted for trump.

Mike O-Neil: That's all speculation at this point. I mean, nobody has done a serious analysis of this. I could throw out four, five theories.

Ted Simons: Is it possible?

Mike O-Neil: Oh, yeah. Indeed it is. There is this interesting confluence, one thing Sanders and trump people don't have a lot to do with one another politically but they tend to be the most upset people. To the extent that you don't differentiate in great detail on the content of the belief system, if this measure was -- how upset you are, they tends to share that in common.

Ted Simons: With that in mind, if the general winds up as Hillary Clinton against Donald Trump, the blue-collar Democrats, the whites, the males that may not be all that happy --

Mike O-Neil: Used to call them Reagan Democrats.

Ted Simons: Used to call them blue dog Democrats. Will they go over to a Donald Trump?

Mike O-Neil: The whole election hinges that is a very, very good question. If I could honestly answer that --

Ted Simons: But again, it's possible?

Mike O-Neil: Oh, indeed it's possible. I think that -- I have two scenarios for a trump-Clinton race. The most probable is a Clinton win by a very large margin. The alternative scenario involves Donald Trump sort of moderating a little bit and figuring that he's got his base. This is the old Richard Nixon strategy. He's got his base that's angry down. He's not going to lose them. He doesn't lose his people no matter what he does. He moderates, says, well, the wall is the goal but I meant metaphorically we're going to stop immigration. You know, I've talked to the experts. Deporting -- we really should deport people but 11 million is impractical. He starts to show a stream of practicality and some of the folks for him aren't real crazy but it makes him appealing, but his biggest problem right now in a general election is he scores horribly with independents.

Ted Simons: Interesting.

Mike O-Neil: There are decreasing pool of true independents, but they do constitute the difference between winning and losing.

Ted Simons: You would think independents in general are not too excited about Democrats, not too excited about the party candidates, that Donald Trump would be a God send for them.

Mike O-Neil: Except to the extent he comes across as partisan. That's why Mitch McConnell is starting to have these meetings about how some of his Senate candidates if it's trump at the top you might be able to distance yourself from him because Donald Trump will come across as an extremely partisan figure and you distance yourself from him and thereby we can preserve the Senate for the Republicans in the face of a democratic landslide for president.

Ted Simons: So trump last night wins last night in Michigan, Mississippi, Hawaii. Cruz took Idaho. Kasich comes in third in Michigan. Kasich is still in the race not having won anything and really this third place finish was easily his best showing. Of course he's got Ohio, his home state, coming up. Does he have any chance?

Mike O-Neil: Not -- certainly not to get a first ballot victory. He has a chance to win in Ohio and thereby deprive Donald Trump of one big chunk of votes. That's winner take all as is Florida, and the same scenario for Rubio. The party to the extent there's an establishment that's their scenario. Rubio takes Florida, Kasich takes Ohio. We keep Donald Trump from getting past 50%.

Ted Simons: If they keep Donald Trump from getting past 50% is it just a hullabaloo at the Republican convention?

Mike O-Neil: Oh, yeah. He's going to have 45% and these delegates are not prone to deal. They are Donald Trump delegates. How are you going to get them to go along with somebody else? That would be -- I want to see that. We're all going to get to see it. We could actually have an opportunity for this convention actually to mean something.

Ted Simons: Interesting for a change.

Mike O-Neil: To have some consequences.

It's been decades -- these things have been just dog and pony shows, it's nice to see something happen.

Mike O-Neil: They weren't always dog and pony shows. Then television came and starting particularly in '72, the Republicans choreographed it beautifully. Everybody -- it was like a four-day commercial and the news media figured it out and retrenched on their coverage.

Ted Simons: '76 the Republicans had some pretty good drama, and of course the Democrats in '68. With that in mind, Cruz, the only real challenge left for trump do you think?

Mike O-Neil: Yeah, but he is certainly not going to get a first ballot nomination. The real issue is do you stop trump or not? God knows what happens if you do.

Ted Simons: Marco Rubio, it looks like he's all but out of it. What happened to that guy?

Mike O-Neil: You know, I guess it's what was his constituent? He was elected as a tea party guy. They hung this gang of 8 business, we'll have some compromise on immigration and right now in the Republican primary electorate, no compromise, I have never, ever been for any compromise on this issue whatsoever or you're dead. Even though he came in as a tea party guy they are hanging this gang of 8 thing on him and it's working.

Ted Simons: Does the Republican establishment understand why Donald Trump is so successful? Do they get it?

Mike O-Neil: I don't think anybody really gets it. In fact I was calling around to colleagues today trying to find -- has anybody done any study that gets to it? We know it's related to anger, we know that it's related to distrust in government. Other than that I don't think anyone has figured this one out yet. Including Donald Trump!

Ted Simons: He probably doesn't know. Mike, good to have you. Thanks.

Mike O'Neil, O'Neil Associates

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