There were three polls of the state between mid-October and the FBI’s announcement about reopening the email case on the 28th. Results: Clinton by five, Trump by one, Trump by two. That made Arizona effectively a toss-up. Hillary, who was cruising along with a five-point lead nationally, decided to try to expand the map with a surprise $2 million ad buy there and some hastily scheduled appearances by top surrogates, most notably Michelle Obama and Bernie Sanders. Clinton herself scheduled an event in the state for November 2nd. Arizona would be the exclamation point on Clinton’s national victory, the de facto spiked football.
Then Comey sent his letter to Congress. The three Arizona polls since: Trump by four, Trump by five, and Trump by five again in this new one from NBC/WSJ.
In Arizona, where Clinton campaigned Wednesday night, Trump leads Clinton by five points among likely voters, 45 percent to 40 percent, while Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson is at 9 percent and the Green Party’s Jill Stein is at 3 percent. Back in September, Trump was ahead by just two points in this four-way race, 40 percent to 38 percent.
In a head-to-head matchup in Arizona, Trump’s edge remains five points, 46 percent to 41 percent.
He’s a 71 percent favorite to win there now per FiveThirtyEight’s model. To put that in perspective, Clinton’s just a 63 percent favorite to win New Hampshire, one of the most important battlegrounds on the map. In Colorado, which increasingly looks to be must-win for both campaigns, she’s down to a 74 percent favorite, scarcely better than Trump’s Arizona odds. Hillary would say, I’m sure, that the Comey announcement took her by surprise and that resources might have been allocated differently in hindsight if she’d known it was coming. And yet … she still held that event in Arizona yesterday rather than canceling and going to Colorado or Wisconsin instead. Nate Silver’s spent the last 36 hours wondering what Clinton is thinking. Why continue to try to complete this hail-mary pass in AZ when Trump is on the verge of cracking her blue-state firewall?
Not only is it justifiable for Trump to be campaigning in WI or MI—it's absolutely the correct strategy. Whereas Clinton in AZ is dubious.
— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) November 2, 2016
In exchange, NC is a tossup instead of leans GOP. And AZ *might* be in play but probably only if she's winning everywhere. Not a good trade.
— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) November 3, 2016
Making this even stranger, Hillary has been conspicuously absent lately from some of the most vulnerable states in her coalition. Read Ron Brownstein’s analysis of the risk of a “flanking maneuver” by Trump that will end up flipping Colorado, Wisconsin, or Michigan after Clinton neglected those states because she was either too busy chasing red ones quixotically or too laser-focused on the big electoral-vote bonanzas in Pennsylvania, Florida, and North Carolina.
McGoldrick says that in October Trump outspent Clinton and her allies on television by about seven-to-one in Wisconsin and two-to-one in Colorado. “This strategy does leave her exposed, particularly in Wisconsin,” he says…
[O]f [her] seven core states, the Clinton campaign and Priorities USA—the principal super PAC supporting her—has treated only Pennsylvania and, to a somewhat lesser extent, New Hampshire as true battlegrounds. The tally of campaign advertising spending maintained by Ad Age and Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group shows that through late October, Clinton had spent almost $38 million in Pennsylvania and over $28 million in New Hampshire, but only about $23 million combined in Michigan, Wisconsin, Colorado, and Virginia. New Mexico had attracted almost no spending from either side through that point…
While Clinton has not visited Wisconsin since April, and appeared just twice in Michigan from June through October, she has virtually taken up residence in Florida, North Carolina, and—after a long absence in September—Ohio. Since June 1, Clinton has appeared 12 times in Ohio, 11 times in Florida, and eight times in North Carolina, according to the campaign tracker maintained by National Journal’s Hotline. Among the core states, only Pennsylvania, with nine appearances, has received anything close to that much attention. Over that same period since June, she’s visited New Hampshire and Colorado three times each, Michigan twice, and Wisconsin not at all.
I don’t mean to overstate the blunder here. She and her team have spent relatively little time or money in Arizona — but they’ve spent some, and it seems clear now that those resources clearly could have been put to better use helping to shore up New Hampshire and Colorado. If Clinton manages to lose this race next week, pundits will spend the rest of November (and probably much of December too, let’s face it) feasting on the various strategic blunders made by Team Hillary. Screwing around in Arizona while blue states turned purple might not be at the top of the list, but it’ll surely be on the list. As for her insistence on holding that rally yesterday, did she feel she couldn’t let the audience down? Did she feel she owed it to Democrats downballot to show up? Liberals are eager to knock off Joe Arpaio this year, after all. Or does Hillary know something from her private polling that we don’t? Democrats in Arizona have cut into the GOP’s advantage in early voting so far this year, trimming a 10-point lead for Republicans in 2012 to a six-point lead now. And Latino turnout is up: Arizona has seen a greater increase in Latinos voting early than any other state so far. Four years ago, six percent of early votes in AZ were cast by Latinos. This year it’s nearly 12 percent. Hmmm.
By the way, although Georgia also looks safely red now after flirting with turning blue earlier this month, the same NBC/WSJ poll that has Trump up five in Arizona has him up in Georgia by … one point. For what it’s worth.