John McCain stands as the latest challenger to test the time-honored rule of thumb that an Arizonan simply cannot be elected president. Consider the results of presidential candidates Barry Goldwater in 1964, Morris Udall in 1976, Bruce Babbitt in 1988 and McCain himself in 2000.
Loser, loser, loser and loser.
McCain broached the topic during a giddy moment on Super Tuesday, Feb. 5, when he essentially locked up the 2008 Republican presidential nomination with a series of primary victories stretching from New York to California.
Standing in front of dozens of television cameras beaming his remarks live around the world, he said:
"You know, I am, as often is reported, a little superstitious, so I don't want to make any exaggerated predictions, and there's still a long road ahead. However, I think it's fair to say that we might have come a little bit closer to the day when mothers in Arizona might be able to tell their children that some day they can grow up and become president of the United States."
Those would be some presumptuous mothers, indeed.
Party affiliation makes no difference -- Goldwater and McCain were Republicans, while Udall and Babbitt were Democrats.
Experience is inconsequential - Goldwater and McCain were senators, Udall was a representative and Babbitt was a governor.
The phenomenon lacks easy explanation, said state historian Marshall Trimble, who knows as much about Arizona's history, lore and lies as anyone.
"I'm hoping we can change that this year," said Trimble, who was personally acquainted with all four presidential candidates. Goldwater and Udall both died in 1998.
Trimble said he's not even sure the law actually exists. According to his count, only Goldwater actually failed to become president. The others failed to become their parties' nominees. The book's still out on McCain circa 2008.
"We've only done it once, the big dance, the show, and that was Barry and now it's John," he said.
Trimble credits the maxim to Udall, who authored the book, "Too Friendly to be President."
Running for president has never been easy for Arizonans.
During the 1964 campaign, Goldwater's primary GOP competitor, New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, and Democrat Lyndon Johnson alike assailed him for being too extreme for the nuclear era.
After losing, Goldwater said he would have voted against himself if he believed everything that was written or said about him.
One night in 1976, Udall went to sleep secure in the knowledge that two networks had declared him the winner of the Wisconsin primary. The next morning, he found out Jimmy Carter had beaten him by half a percentage point.
Udall told reporters, "I'd like to ask each of you to take those statements I made last night, and in every instance where you find the word 'win,' strike it out and insert the word 'lose.'"
During the 1988 campaign, Babbitt appeared in a "Saturday Night Live" skit to confront a spoof-expose that he took too many items through the express lane of supermarkets.
"It is time that I step up and admit that in the past I have been guilty of the injudicious use of grocery store express lanes. But I would like to point out that on one such occasion the cashier actually counted a Kellogg's snack pack as six items," he said as part of the skit. "Now, some say that I should withdraw from the race. But I say, 'Hell no!'"
Worse yet, Michael Dukakis forced him to resign.
In 2000, McCain finished second to George W. Bush. But McCain gets a do-over this year.
The major issue with Arizona's past presidential candidates is the Eastern perception that a candidate from a cactus-strewn state couldn't be taken seriously, Trimble said. McCain could be the one to change that perception for good.
"There are a lot of other states that have not produced a president, too," he said. "But we love a good a joke on ourselves. And I think that's what that's all about."