Well, that Arizona race was close! And of course, we had a blog ready to go in case we called it the wrong way. But in the end, as we thought she might, Krysten Sinema won the Senate race with a consistent, upbeat and extremely well funded campaign that rested on her staunch defence of Obamacare.
It was a great night for Democrats in general, but especially in Arizona where Martha McSally’s hardline pro-Trump, anti-immigration campaign foundered and she also lost the seat in Congress she had vacated to make a Senate run, further increasing the Democrat majority in the House of Representatives which they now control for the first time since 2011.
McSally's bombastic campaign, which emphasised her military service and aligned with Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric, played well with rural voters but likely contributed to a significant Democrat surge in the suburbs. Sinema unsurprisingly picked up 64% of the non-white vote and 62% of the under-30s, and the continuing rapid shift in Arizona’s demographics point to this being a battleground state in 2020.
However, while disapproval of Trump, and discomfort with his racist rhetoric played a part in this election, there is little doubt that the race was mainly about healthcare, exactly as we predicted. 26% of all voters cited healthcare as their most important issue, and of those 79% voted for Sinema.
This is especially encouraging for Democrats as McSally deployed a standard Republican tactic in the campaign, arguing that she supported health care coverage for patients with pre-existing conditions. Sinema was able to expose this as a blatant falsehood, based on McSally’s voting record, and she was able to contrast this with her own voting record. It’s a pattern that will be repeated time and again - and likely a key factor in voting for moderates, independents and female voters in 2020.
The result in Arizona (and the overall results on the night) show the validity of Signify’s central premise - that a positive, coherent campaign based on issues that voters care about, will play better than a campaign that tacks left or right, and plays on fear and division.
Whoever the Democrat nominee is for 2020, they will do better if they identify and espouse the things that matter to voters, then they will in a competition for air time with The Donald.
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