Arizona may elect first Democrat since 1948

By Amy C. Schweigert
Arizona Daily Wildcat
August 28, 1996

Karen C. Tully
Arizona Daily Wildcat

Arizona Students' Association Task Force Director Jeff Schrade said he believes presidential candidate Bob Dole's age is on the minds of many voters as the upcoming presidential election nears.


Reports circulating around the political campfire in Arizona are suggesting that the state's electoral college may carry its first Democratic presidential candidate in nearly 50 years.

Arizona last voted for a Democrat in 1948. In that year, Harry Truman became president.

In this year's presidential election, Democratic incumbent Bill Clinton, 50, is being challenged by Republican Bob Dole, 76.

A poll conducted earlier this month in Maricopa County, a predominantly Republican area, showed Clinton with a 19 percentage point lead over Dole.

University of Arizona political science Professor Jerry Rusk said Clinton has a good chance of winning the state, especially if he visits here. In 1992, Clinton lost the state to former President Bush by just one point, Rusk said.

A lot of the people polled are also concerned with Dole's age, Rusk said.

"Of course (Dole's age) is going to play a factor," said Jeff Schrade, the director of the Arizona Students' Association Task Force. "He's just so old, it's hard to get away from that."

Schrade, a political science and economics major, said ASA is sponsoring a campaign called Students Are Voting Everywhere, or SAVE America.

SAVE is a program which encourages Arizona college students to register to vote.

UA speech and hearing sciences senior Karen LaFortune also said Dole's age deeply concerns her.

"The presidency is a very stressful position. He's in his 70s. I don't know if he can physically handle the stress that goes along with being president," she said.

"Dole's age commands nostalgic respect," said Scott Jenkins, an English literature and molecular and cellular biology senior.

Rusk said Dole's age is not the only factor affecting the state's negative response to him. Before the Republican convention, Dole did not look energetic and enthusiastic, he said.

However, Dole's speech at the convention helped to change that image, Rusk said.

It was the "assertive, aggressive, and energetic" style of Dole's speech that helped changed his image, he said.

The Arizona electoral college holds only eight out of 538 votes nationally, Rusk said. Because of this, it will not have that big of an effect on the election overall if Arizona votes Democrat in November, he said.

"Clinton is going to win with or without Arizona," Rusk said. "It (the election) will be won in the big (populous) states."

Clinton is popular among Arizonans because everything has gone well with his presidency; he has passed a lot of legislation such as NAFTA and AmericaCore, and jobs have been created, Rusk said.

"(Right now), it's a reasonably good economy, and that will favor him," he said. "That is the key thing during an election."

Schrade said although Clinton may win Arizona, it will be a challenge.

"It's going to be hard because this is a historically Republican state."

Schrade said people feel that Clinton is the better of two bad options.

LaFortune agrees.

"I think it's the lesser of two evils," she said.

Jenkins said Clinton's chances of gaining Arizona decrease if so-called snowbirds, people who live in Arizona only in the winter months, are registered to vote here.

"It depends how many grumpy people in Arizona side with the grumpy guy," Jenkins said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.