November 2, 2004
President George Bush was cruising toward a comfortable but predictable win Tuesday in Arizona.
Bush pulled to a double-digit lead as early returns were posted, and maintained it through most of the night. A close contest had at one time been predicted in Arizona, despite a registration advantage favoring Republicans.
But by the end of the night, the president appeared to be beating the registration advantage and the 6 percentage points he won the state by four years ago.
In Arizona, Republican voters came home to Bush in large part because of his effectiveness in fighting the war on terror, said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., co-chairman of Bush's campaign in Arizona. “It's a more comfortable margin than I had thought,” McCain said. “I thought it would be five or six points and apparently it's as high as 10."
Gov. Janet Napolitano, who showed up at the Democratic gathering about 10 p.m. conceded that Bush would likely carry Arizona, but she added the Kerry campaign charged Democratic voters in a way that will affect future state elections.
“I thought that it was a very good fight and it energized a lot of people,” Napolitano said as she left the stage. “I think what we’ll see in the coming years is the state will sometimes go Republican, sometimes go Democratic.” Former President Bill Clinton is the only Democratic president since Harry Truman to win Arizona.
Arizona was a hotbed of presidential campaigning throughout the summer. Kerry crossed the state on a multi-stop train tour in early August. Bush followed two days later with his main event in Arizona, a rally that drew about 15,000 people to Veterans' Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix.
What had been a slight lead in the polls for Bush ballooned to double digits after he had a strong performance at the Republican National Convention in September. Kerry canceled an ad buy planned for early October. Both candidates largely ignored Arizona since, returning only for events tied to the final presidential debate last month in Tempe.
Polls showed Bush's advantage here narrowed after the debates. However, Kerry never was able to pull ahead in Arizona, where Republicans have an partisan registration advantage of about 141,000.
Bush's success in battling terrorism was cited by people who backed him at East Valley polling places Tuesday.
“I have confidence in his leadership,” said Sue Flanders of Mesa just after she cast her ballot for Bush. “I don't know enough about Kerry to trust him. We're in the middle of a war and I feel like I'd rather stay with Bush.”
Jon Krummenacher of Chandler also cited the war on terror as a critical reason he backed the president.
“He is a lot more consistent,” Krummenacher said of Bush. “He's got strategies to fight terrorism and continue to protect the nation.”
But for Tiffany Randall of Chandler, Kerry's determination to recruit more allies for the war in Iraq and the broader war on terrorism was why she supported the Democrat.
“I think it's time to build new alliances and start gaining friends instead of enemies,” Randall said of Kerry.