Vote 2016: Arizona Presidential Preference Election

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We’ll analyze the Arizona Presidential Preference election results and what they mean to the upcoming United States presidential election.

Jose Cardenas: Good evening. I'm Jose Cardenas. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton win big in Arizona, but long lines to vote dominate the headlines here in our state and across the country. We'll talk about the results, candidate campaigns, and more. All this coming up straight ahead on "Horizonte."

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

Jose Cardenas: On Tuesday, voters experienced long lines at the polls for Arizona's presidential preference election because of fewer polling sites this year in Maricopa county. The sites were overwhelmed after Maricopa county officials reduced the number of polling places to save money. As for the election results, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump both won big in Arizona. Joining me now to analyze everything are Mario Diaz, president of Mario E. Diaz and Associates, Jaime Molera, partner with Molera Alvarez. He is also the host of "Politics In The Yard" on the CW network. And Chris Herstam, political analyst and former state lawmaker. Gentlemen, welcome to "Horizonte." Let's start with what I think we can all agree was the biggest loser on Tuesday, which was the Maricopa Recorder's office. Mario, what happened?

Mario Diaz: Let's do the positive aspect. The big winners were democracy and the Arizona voters. Finally, individuals from different parts of the community came out to vote. Unfortunately, the Maricopa county Recorder elections department decided to only have 60 polling places for 21,000 individuals per poll. It caused lines of four or five hours.

Jose Cardenas: Before we talk about the wisdom of that, Chris, do you think it impacted the results at all?

Chris Herstam: I don't think so. I think Trump won so overwhelmingly, the last numbers were like by 22% over Cruz and Hillary Clinton won by like 18 points over Bernie Sanders. The only saving grace is that the number of people who saw those huge lines and couldn't put that three or four hours in that did not vote, if it had been a real close election that might have made the difference in the results. But fortunately, the spread was so large that the backup in voters did not affect the outcome.

Jose Cardenas: So Helen Purcell has come out and said it was a mistake, we miscalculated. Others are suggesting it was intentional, that it's part of voter suppression efforts. Your take on that?

Jamie Molera: I think that's silly. That's just really silly. Helen Purcell has a lot of credibility. She has done this for a lot of years and by and large people respect her and the job she's done. The thing that people forget, one of the big problems was in Arizona, independents can vote in our primaries but in the presidential election, they cannot vote. So you saw a lot of independents that didn't realize that and they showed up and they clogged the lines. If it wasn't for those provisional ballots that were being filled out, sometimes, it would take five minutes, people had to explain, they would argue, they would say well, I know that I'm a Republican. All of those things played into it and granted combined with the reduced number of polling places that had an effect but those provisional ballots really set people back a long way.

Chris Herstam: I've got to respectfully disagree there. I know that's what the secretary of state's office and what Helen Purcell was saying the day of the election and the evening of the election but she backed that down the next day. It really wasn't the independents that caused the problem. It was just the ridiculous low number of polling locations and the turnout.

Jamie Molera: I was there and it took me 15 seconds, they had the technology, it was great. The people in front of me took five minutes each because they were both provisional ballots.

Jose Cardenas: How long did you wait?

Jamie Molera: I waited an hour and 15 minutes. But the person there made an announcement that said independents can vote, you have every right to vote but it won't count. You saw about 30 people leave the lines, and then they need to do that constantly because you had all these people just streaming in. That was a big problem. I'm not saying that the low polling places wasn't a problem. But those provisional ballots were a big clog in what happened.

Mario Diaz: Mea culpa. The county supervisor needs to call some hearing and ask questions. I don't know about taking it so far referring this to the department of justice, that's fine if the mayor wants to do that but I think there has to be some questions asked about the understanding of why 60? Why not 80? Why not 100? How did we get to that.

Jamie Molera: The only good thing about this, she already said for prop 123 that's in May, they've announced they're going to have a lot more polling places.

Chris Herstam: There was a lot of people, though, that had their fingerprints on this. Yes, Helen Purcell made the decision to 60, but the board of supervisors was told about this many weeks before the election, as was the secretary of state's office. It's hard to believe that somebody wouldn't have -- the lightbulb wouldn't have gone on when they were watching tremendous turnouts in other states.

Jose Cardenas: Supervisor Gallardo actually raised that issue.

Chris Herstam: He brought it up.

Jose Cardenas: So before we leave the topic, one last question. On the independents, Arizona seems to be one of the few states where they can't vote in these presidential primaries. Good idea?

Mario Diaz: You know, I think that we should reconsider this because there were so many voters left out on the sidelines that just fundamentally for the growth of our state and the political system, they should vote.

Jose Cardenas: Isn't there some concern about the Republicans should be able to pick their person and the Democrats should be able to pick their person without other people who don't have an interest in either party influencing that?

Jamie Molera: Well, I think so but at the same time, we have a very good tradition of the independents being able to vote and being able to choose what they want to do in our statewide elections, in our state elections. And that seems to work well. I think -- I've always said a lot of times independents tend to break Republican but I think it would work well in a presidential primary.

Chris Herstam: You cannot disenfranchise what is now 37% of the registered voters from voting in presidential preference primaries. And I'm glad to see Governor Ducey come out on Wednesday saying that independents should be able to vote in the presidential preference primaries. I think you've got to let it happen in my view. It's crazy not to happen -- and many of the other states do already.

Jose Cardenas: So it looks like we have consensus on that issue. Let's talk about what actually happened in the election results. First on the democratic side, we got the numbers, we're going to put them on the screen. So it looks like we have consensus on that issue, let's look at what happened, first on the Democratic side.

Jose Cardenas: We've got the numbers, we're going to put them on the screen. Pretty impressive showing by Hillary Clinton. Chris? Bernie Sanders spent a lot of time and money in Arizona. Was he just delusional in thinking he might make a dent here?

Chris Herstam: Yes, I think he was. The bottom line for Hillary Clinton and every state that she has won big has been minority votes. In the south and in many other states, it was the African-American votes that she won with an overwhelming percentage and she was counting on doing well with the Latino vote here in Arizona. She obviously did. And because this was a closed primary, it killed Bernie Sanders because in almost every state, even many of them that Sanders has won, he wins because he wins 75% of the independents that vote. Hillary Clinton still wins the democratic vote. So in a closed primary where there's no independents, Bernie Sanders just isn't going to make it and Hillary defeated him easily.

Jose Cardenas: But Mario, he had Congressman grijalva campaigning pretty hard for him. What happened?

Mario Diaz: It's very difficult to defeat a brand. And the Clinton brand, that name has been floating around Arizona with President Clinton and secretary Clinton for decades. So it's very difficult. I was surprised. Bernie Sanders went to Santa Cruz County. He lost by 2:1. He had Congressman grijalva. He lost the Latino vote. The only county he won was Coconino County. He recruited many top Latino leaders in the state but at the end of the day, that energy didn't translate into votes, obviously, and that brand, the Clinton brand is very difficult to beat.

Jose Cardenas: So how much, though, is that attributable to early voting? Helen Purcell said she expected 95% of the votes would be cast early ballots. It was off but it was still 86%. And so is that perhaps the explanation why Bernie's push didn't have that much of an impact?

Jamie Molera: I think so but I think Mario has a good point. The Clinton name in Arizona is very strong. Bill Clinton was the last democratic president to win in Arizona and they have a very strong connection with the Democratic Party, and I think that combined with the Latino vote which was overwhelmingly for Clinton, it's very difficult to overcome, especially I think if Sanders was going to try to make a move, he should have been doing TV and organization a lot earlier than just maybe a week and a half before the election.

Jose Cardenas: Let's talk about the Republican side. We're going to put those numbers up on the screen. Any surprises to you?

Mario Diaz: Nope. Except that Marco Rubio probably had the most effective campaign of the election cycle. He came in third place.

Jamie Molera: Not really. I think you saw this scenario of Donald Trump being able to tap into this anxiety, this angst, this whatever you want to call it, this nervousness of the electorate, especially in the Republican side, that has just generated a lot of excitement for him.

Jose Cardenas: Even Jeff DeWit said that margin of victory is 10 percentage points higher than he would have predicted.

Jamie Molera: I think a lot of the polling data was showing that he was definitely going to get in the mid-30s or high 30s. But he did a very good job and I think at the end of the day people like to vote with a winner and the last -- I would bet a lot of the folks that came out on Election Day broke heavily for Trump.

Chris Herstam: You know, Donald Trump has run strong in almost every state that's had a high minority percentage, because what he does, whether it's the African-Americans in the south, or the high percentage of Latinos in Arizona, Trump then appeals to the aging white male voter in the Republican party, and he rolls in those states. All you have to do is look at Trump, look at brewer, Senate bill 1070, look at Joe Arpaio, Arizona primary presidential politics is made to order for them and it didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that Trump was going to roll in the Republican primary in Arizona.

Jose Cardenas: Did he need those endorsements? There's debate about how effective endorsements are from Jan Brewer and Joe Arpaio. Did they make any difference?

Mario Diaz: Donald Trump had no campaign presence in Arizona and quite frankly, in many other states. There's not a presence of a Donald Trump campaign. This isn't necessarily about Donald Trump per se. It's about anti-President Obama. This is what's driving these voters out to vote. There is a sense of the Donald Trump myth and the celebrity status but this is an anti-president Obama, clear cut, there is no doubt about it in my mind. These voters have been waiting for eight years to vote for one of their candidates.

Jose Cardenas: Well why not vote for ted Cruz then? Who many people view as -- and I think properly so as very much anti-Obama and also, a more purist Republican?

Mario Diaz: Because ted Cruz in their eyes is part of the establishment. He's a United States senator and quite frankly Donald Trump touches the psychological nerve of these types of voters that have lost their jobs, that have seen minorities do well, the last eight years under President Obama, that have seen their neighborhoods change, and now, it's their time to get back, to pay back. Because there are no issues for them to support per se from Donald Trump. It's an emotional vote. It's an anti-Obama vote.

Jose Cardenas: Chris, you were on the show in July. and at that time, you predicted that Donald Trump was going to hang around a whole lot longer than anybody expected he would and that it would be to the delight of the Democratic Party. Do you feel that way?

Chris Herstam: Oh, yes, even more so. And back then in July, it's a long time ago now, I didn't think Trump would go all the way. I thought that there was more of a Republican establishment that would get behind one candidate early and would eventually put him away. But, you know, they've waited basically through 31 different states before now just trying to coalesce, and it's ironic that they're coalescing around ted Cruz of all people who many establishment people can't stand. That's what the Republican choice has come down to, Donald Trump or ted Cruz, that's about as pathetic as you can get. And now, I think Trump can win the nomination frankly. Back in July I thought he would fall short. But back then I think on your show I called him an egomaniac that was going to appeal to fear and hatred and bigotry and that's exactly what he's done, nothing has changed in my opinion.

Jose Cardenas: I do want to talk about the efforts to stop Trump but before we get to that, Trump keeps saying that he's brought more people out and if you look at the lines here in Arizona this week, there seems to be something to that. So isn't that the kind of response to the point that this benefits the Democrats? Maybe not.

Jamie Molera: The interesting thing about Donald Trump, a lot of his positions are not the traditional conservative party positions. He's somebody that talks about huge tariff increases to combat China. He's somebody that wants to renegotiate N.A.F.T.A. He's somebody that wants to unilaterally pull out of a number of treaties, pull out of N.A.T.O. and a lot of our long-standing defense obligations. That's not what a lot of Republican candidates -- I don't think Ronald Reagan would say I want to create all these tariffs to make America great again. One of the things that the Democrats need to be a little careful about and the polling data shows that in a head-to-head competition, Hillary Clinton would be a favorite, but if Trump continues to push these issues, they've got to be careful with a lot of the blue-collar Democrat, even the union vote that somewhat appeals to them. They like the fact and especially if you have continuing terrorist attacks where they think we need somebody that's going to be tough, we need somebody that's going to stand up to other countries that are trying to take our jobs. That kind of populist and nationalistic fervor, if it's not dealt with well and early, then you can see that kind of momentum build. You saw it with the Republicans. They didn't know how to answer those things and they got rolled over. Hillary Clinton I think would be tougher but at the same time, they just can't take that and say oh, well Trump is going to win.

Mario Diaz: What we saw yesterday was a kaleidoscope at the voting lines, a kaleidoscope of people that have not gone out to vote. Trump takes out people, Hillary is going to take out twice as many.

Jose Cardenas: Let me ask quickly. Do you think the terrorist attacks had an impact?

Jamie Molera: I think it was too late but I think if folks were to be impacted by another terrorist attack or if it happened closer to our shores, god forbid, I think that benefits him. I think all of his rhetoric about what he needs to do to be strong and throw out all this -- what most people would say would be incredibly dangerous types of policy positions, will resonate with folks that they feel that's the only way to keep us safe.

Jose Cardenas: Do you think Trump will be the eventual Republican nominee?

Jamie Molera: I think he will. It's going to be a long time before we know that. If you look at the numbers, 538, Nate silver has a great blog that shows the raw mathematical standpoints. It might be until California, which is amazing; it would be June 7th before we might have an understanding of whether or not Trump gets over the magic number of 1,237 votes. Even then he might be a little bit short but the question is is that mood of winning all those primaries going to say the Republicans might have to force themselves to say this guy won all the primaries we might have to swallow it and stick with him.

Chris Herstam: If they deny Donald Trump the nomination, the party will be so fractured that they will be handing it to the Democrats, anyway. I think if they nominate Trump, they're handing it to Hillary Clinton, too. I don't see the Republicans winning the presidency. I think Hillary Clinton is poised to use basically the exact same Obama formula that won twice for him, and that is women, particularly single women, and minorities, that kind of coalition the Republicans could not beat. The only area that Barack Obama was a little weak in was white women. Well, Hillary Clinton will do very well with white women against Donald Trump. So I think Trump will be a tremendous get out the vote entity for the Democratic Party, and I think Clinton wins by a larger margin than Barack Obama won in either of his two victories.

Jose Cardenas: Doesn't Hillary Clinton have baggage that Obama didn't have? She's got the Benghazi issues, the e-mails, there's concern by some about a dynasty, which obviously Obama didn't have to deal with, the lesser enthusiasm from the African-American community, from the Latino community? You take all that into account and what seems to be Trump's success in stimulating a lot of people who might not have otherwise voted at all.

Mario Diaz: We're not running against the past. We're supposedly running against Donald Trump and when you have an individual who puts a nuclear bomb as part of his foreign policy options on the table, verbalizing this, verbalizing it today, this is a very scary individual and at the same time, whatever he's doing at night tweeting about his opponent's wife, this is the type of candidate that Hillary would just devour because every day, she's looking more and more presidential.

Jose Cardenas: So many people just dismiss that by saying he really wouldn't do that.

Mario Diaz: You know he's one heartbeat away if he becomes the nominee for President of the United States. I think people will buckle down and understand how serious his candidacy and his presidential candidacy would be if he wins.

Jose Cardenas: Do all three of you think he's going to be the nominee?

Mario Diaz: I do.

Chris Herstam: I do.

Jose Cardenas: And if that happens, do you agree that Hillary Clinton wins?

Jamie Molera: Well, like I said before, I would say as of right now, I would give the edge, if I were betting, I would put money on Clinton. However, and I'll say this again, if the Democrats do not pay attention to how he's been able to tap into that anxiety that's permeating across the country at all levels and even within the Democrat party, I think Bernie Sanders' ability to resonate with these folks is that he offers this idea of a change. Now what that change means a lot of them couldn't explain that to you. John McCain told a great story of meeting somebody and says who are you voting for, for president? I think I'm going to vote for Bernie Sanders. It doesn't look like he's going to win. Who do you vote for after? Donald Trump. That's the kind of attitude that people have, they just want change. And if he's able to continue to tap into that angst that's out there, the Democrats had better take heed.

Chris Herstam: You just mentioned an interesting name, John McCain. Not only do I think Hillary Clinton will win Arizona against Donald Trump by a solid margin. If John McCain does not come out and say that he does not support Trump for President of the United States, I think Ann Kirkpatrick can pull an upset, I think she could ride on the coattails of Hillary Clinton, that the turnout of Democrats will be at an all-time high because of their dislike for Donald Trump. I know McCain has criticized Trump but he has said he will support the nominee. McCain has got to get off that horse or I think he's going to be caught by Kirkpatrick. I never thought McCain would be endangered in this re-election effort but this is the formula that could do him in.

Jamie Molera: I think John McCain is way above being tagged as somebody that would be an acolyte of Donald Trump.

Chris Herstam: When he's asked are you going to vote for Trump for president?

Jamie Molera: There's so many articles and there's so many quotes and there's so many stories -- Donald Trump said he wasn't a real American because he was in a P.O.W. camp.

Chris Herstam: I remember when Goldwater ran last time, he just barely won.

Jose Cardenas: Would he be better off if he said he wasn't going to vote for Trump?

Jamie Molera: You can never just take your entire base and say I'm going to throw it out the window by not supporting who your party, the people that you are running to represent their chosen candidate and say you're not going to support them.

Chris Herstam: Even if you believe he's a spreader of hate and bigotry -- [ Overlapping Speakers ]

Jamie Molera: John McCain will do what he believes is best for Arizona and the United States but at the same time, you can't just say that because of that Trump connection -- I think there are other U.S. senators that might.

Jose Cardenas: I do want to talk about the down-ticket effect. Mario, nationally and in Arizona in particular, what do you think the impact is if it's Clinton versus Trump?

Mario Diaz: I was asked this question by a capitol reporter before the presidential preference and I don't think there will be a trickledown effect. I would say to the Democratic Party and the state legislative committees need to start strategizing about the legislative districts where we have a reasonable opportunity to defeat a Republican. And I do think that because of the Donald Trump effect, that this can trickle down we could possibly have a state Senate where Democrats can take it, if the cards are played right, if there's money on the table. This is how deep this hatred, this anxiety, not only from Democrats but from moderate Republicans that I speak to from Scottsdale and paradise valley that are saying absolutely not will I vote for a Donald Trump.

Jose Cardenas: You seem to be starting to indicate that it could have an effect if Trump is nominated?

Jamie Molera: I think folks that don't have the same kind of a brand and that don't have the same kind of name I.D. and people really -- people know John McCain's positions. They may not know if a David Gowan becomes the candidate in the congressional district one running against Tom O'Halloran. I think those are the kinds of races that Democrats, if they are aggressive about raising the money they need and organization, that could problematic.

Chris Herstam: What about Governor Ducey who isn't running for re-election? What's he going to do? Is he going to say he's voting for Donald Trump?

Jamie Molera: He's been interestingly quiet.

Chris Herstam: He has, he has.

Jose Cardenas: Do the democrats get the Senate back?

Jamie Molera: The U.S. Senate? I think they have a possibility, although the Republicans, it's interesting to see how this is playing out because even at a national level, you have Paul Ryan the Speaker of the House being very aggressive in denouncing a lot of the Trump policies. You're seeing that all over the place. So as it gets closer to the convention, eventually, you'll see how the Republicans react if they try to distance themselves. Usually, you have every politician in the world that would kill to be speaking at the convention. It would be interesting to see if a lot of them say I don't want to be there this time around.

Jose Cardenas: We've got less than 30 seconds. Chris, do the Democrats get the House of Representatives back?

Chris Herstam: No. But I do think they eat into the Republican's huge lead but it's too much. I do see them taking the U.S. Senate back and of course, they maintain the presidency and it's all because of one person, Donald Trump.

Jose Cardenas: Well, I must say that this has been great for political junkies like the four of us and interesting and we're going to have a lot more to talk about coming soon. Thank you for joining us on "Horizonte."

Jamie Molera: Thank you.

Jose Cardenas: And don't forget. If you missed any previous episodes of "Horizonte" and also want to find out what's coming up on the show just go to our website azpbs.org and click on "Horizonte."

Jose Cardenas: And that's our show for tonight. Thank you for watching. From all of us here at "Horizonte" and your Arizona PBS station, I'm Jose Cardenas. Have a good evening. ¶¶ ¶¶ ¶¶ ¶¶

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

Mario Diaz: Mario E Diaz & Associates; Jaime Molera: founding partner of Molera Alvarez; Chris Herstam: chief of staff of former Gov. Fife Symington

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