Presidential candidates Barack Obama and Ron Paul presented their respective Arizona campaign teams Friday, underscoring that the state will be in play during the 2008 election.
Political strategists in both major parties said the state could tilt either Republican or Democratic on Election Day next year, so candidates for both parties are willing to spend time, money and effort here.
Obama is a Democratic U.S. senator from Illinois. Paul is a Republican U.S. representative from Texas.
Arizona is one of 20 states that have scheduled presidential primary elections on Feb. 5. The Mega Tuesday elections are likely to establish clear frontrunners in each party — or, theoretically, could even effectively determine the nominees altogether.
Both Obama and Paul have plenty of ground to make up in Arizona.
Obama trailed Hillary Clinton among Democratic voters in a presidential preference poll of Arizona Democrats in September, while Paul didn’t even register among Republican voters. The survey was conducted by Arizona State University.
Obama campaign manager David Plouffe told reporters during a conference call Friday that Arizona will be a key state in the election for his candidate.
“Arizona, obviously, is going to be a very important Feb. 5 state. It’s a very important general election state. We plan to mount a vigorous and successful campaign in Arizona,” Plouffe said.
The campaign opened offices in both Phoenix and Tucson this week; and Obama will make his first visit to Arizona as a presidential candidate next week.
He’ll appear at a rally at Hayden Lawn, on ASU’s Tempe campus at 10 a.m. Friday; and he’ll headline a fund-raiser luncheon at the Wyndham Phoenix hotel, at 50 E. Adams St., in Phoenix, at 12:30 p.m. Friday.
Plouffe also outlined Obama’s new state staff.
The national campaign’s Western political director Raul Alvillar will take the helm as state director; and the national campaign’s deputy youth vote director Mary Hodge will transition into a new role as Arizona field director.
Furthermore, former Arizona Democratic Party political director Toni Morales will serve as the Obama campaign’s state political director.
The rally will be the first big campaign event by a Democrat in Arizona that isn’t a fund-raiser, Plouffe said.
“A lot of those people will sign up and pledge support for our campaign. That’s how you build a campaign organization. We’re not going to dash into the state and collect some money and dash out. We’re going to make sure that as many people as want to be exposed to Barack Obama and his message have the opportunity to do that,” Plouffe said.
Meanwhile, Paul campaign manager Kent Snyder announced that Goldwater Institute co-founder Roy Miller and state Sen. Karen Johnson, a Republican from Mesa, will serve as state campaign co-chairmen.
With their addition, Paul’s campaign is poised to make a strong impact in the state, Snyder wrote in a statement.
“With their impressive backgrounds and experiences, they will be instrumental in spreading Dr. Paul’s message of freedom, prosperity and peace,” he said.
The Paul campaign did not announce a state office, nor any Arizona appearances by the candidate.
The Obama campaign’s offices are at 22 E. Mitchell Drive, Suite 100, in Phoenix; and 4500 E. Speedway Blvd., in Tucson.
The requested contribution for the Obama fund-raiser is $500 a person. VIP tickets are $2,300 each. Information is available at email@example.com and (310) 277-2008.