Joe Biden became the first Democratic presidential candidate to win Arizona since 1996, denying President Donald Trump 11 pivotal electoral votes that were once reliably Republican.
While Trump ran up the score in rural Arizona, Biden carved a path through fast-changing Maricopa County, where Phoenix and its suburbs supply some 60 percent of the state’s electorate. It was the largest county in America to go to Trump in 2016, but it is also at the center of twin trends reshaping Arizona politics: disaffected suburbanites migrating away from the Republican Party and Democratic-leaning Latinos turning out in greater force with every election.
Arguably no state in the country shined a brighter spotlight on Trump’s shaky hold on the old Republican Party this year, with Cindy McCain, the widow of the late Sen. John McCain, and former GOP Sen. Jeff Flake among a number of current and former high-profile Arizona Republicans who endorsed Biden. The former vice president’s final ads in the state touted Biden’s humanity, empathy and desire to find unity with the opposing party.
Biden spent big in the newly minted battleground state, with the Phoenix media market often soaking up more money from his campaign than any other in the country in the final months of the election. Trump’s strategy appeared more geared to revving up his base than wooing on-the-fence swing voters, taking a turnout approach to defending Arizona once it became clear it was one of the most vulnerable targets for Biden to flip this year.
In the final days of the campaign, Trump visited parts of Arizona where he had strong support, holding packed rallies, despite the coronavirus pandemic, as he tried to turn out more conservative voters.
Biden’s campaign dedicated most of its efforts to Maricopa County, driving up turnout among Latinos by promising to better handle the coronavirus pandemic, which has disproportionately impacted Americans of color.
Grassroots Latino groups and union organizations were a key piece of Democrats’ field organizing, with some starting door-knocking programs in August despite the Biden campaign’s reluctance to do so during the pandemic for most of the campaign.
Despite Arizona’s competitiveness, Biden only visited the state once during the general election as he restricted his travel during the pandemic, a point of contention among some on the ground.
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