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: For how will Arizona's presidential election fit into the national race and what will the state's results mean to both parties? We spoke with presidential historian and ASU foundation founder Brooks Simpson. The impact of this primary in general on the nominating process. How big a deal will it be?
Brooks Simpson: I think Tuesday was going to be a bigger deal had last Tuesday ended up differently. This is now a confirming vote. With Marco Rubio no longer a Republican contender, we will see where those votes will go. Whether Trump can really get above 40, 45% of the popular vote. Hillary Clinton comes into the state with a sizable lead over Bernie Sanders.
Ted Simons: Let's start with the Democrats. Does this kind of basically show if Bernie Sanders can pull the Latino vote?
Brooks Simpson: This is going to be one of the key tests for Bernie Sanders if he can pull nonwhite voters from anywhere. 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 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, et cetera, do appeal to a good portion of the Republican base. He can now show that he can go up against Ted Cruz and John Kasich together and still 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 the one reason in fact that Republican stalwarts, the establishment, that's never been actually defined for me Harks reacted to slowly to the Trump candidacy is they were not prepared for this at all. 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: In fact I think a lot of Republicans had something to do with many of the angry voices. 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. You are now reaping what you have sown too. We have seen outside candidates still within the party come and surprise the party establishment. Jimmy Carter in 1976 in this state, Barry Goldwater in 1964. They would not have been anticipated at the beginning as viable candidates yet when conventions met there they were.
Ted Simons: But did we have the establishment? '64 was Goldwater. An interesting time, but it seemed like the establishment said, all right, he's our guy. 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 still our guy. Republicans almost, establishment Republicans are saying this is not our guy, Donald Trump.
Brooks Simpson: No, and I think they understand Trump is a loose cannon and they don't want to be held accountable for what he might say or tweet or whatever. Trump marches to his own beat. That's something that petrifies Republicans. Heels not going to be a candidate they can manage in any way.
Ted Simons: Brokered convention?
Brooks Simpson: That's still got a good possibility on the Republican side. Although Trump has done well in the primaries him now to win the winner take all states. I think a brokered convention isn't as likely as other people say because of the winner take all nature of primaries on out including Arizona's.
Ted Simons: If Trump gets, say, the nomination and we see third party or establishment Republicans with a third party candidate, what does that do to the Republican party?
Brooks Simpson: It actually shatters the Republican Party. If your party insiders become your party outsiders all of a sudden who do the people on the Republican national committee support? Do they resign from the party he recognizes? 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 all together. Then the Senate candidates are those insider or outsider candidates like John McCain in Arizona. Is he a Trump Republican or 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, his followers will get a chance to air -- 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 that while Bernie Sanders is in some ways frustrated Hillary Clinton it's made her a better campaigner in certain ways, sharper in her message. I think in 2008 when she ran she took too many things for granted and lost 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 kinds of attacks she will deal with in the fall.
Ted Simons: As far as the general election is concerned whether it's Clinton and Trump, Clinton and Cruz, someone we don't even know, for Democrats it always seems turnout is the key.
Brooks Simpson: It's going to be very important. This is in fact where the Sanders factor is going to be curious. Right now there are Sanders supporters who claim if their candidate does not secure the democratic nomination, I think that unlikely, they will not vote in the fall election. Democrats have always talked about the importance of turnout but it was the Republican in 2004 who used turnout in surprising ways to secure in that year George W. Bush's election.
Ted Simons: Will vice presidential candidates -- they don't seem like they matter all that much. Could they this time?
Brooks Simpson: I don't think so. I think we always think they are going to matter and if they matter they matter in a negative sense, that they are an embarrassment, they do something wrong. We have seen where both parties that what you want in fact 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, but he does have a shot.
Brooks Simpson: Oh, he has a shot. I think in fact the only way for Democrats to approach this is to assume he does have a shot. In fact it's because many Republican insider thought he didn't have a shot at the nomination that he's walking towards the nomination. They didn't take him seriously. Democrats need to take him seriously and take seriously what motivates his supporters, see how they are going to counter that by turning out more voters or addressing the needs of Trump supporters.
Ted Simons: You're a presidential historian. I have asked if we have seen anything like this before. 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 be good actors too. Andrew Jackson was known to blow a fuse and turn around and smile. We have had other people come in and immediately change their political beliefs in the eyes of many people, John Tyler, Andrew Johnson. In terms of his bombastic personality, who knows no boundaries and the does not seek to do anything even though he wants to build a wall, Donald Trump is certainly something.
Ted Simons: Certainly something too much what as well. Great insight. Good to have you here. Thanks for joining us.
Brooks Simpson: Thank you.
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Brooks Simpson: Arizona State University Foundation Professor of History in the School of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies