On Tuesday, writing for The Nation, Sasha Abramsky explored how Arizona Democrats managed to fight off a crop of extremist candidates, led by election deniers like Blake Masters and Kari Lake.
"In the run-up to the election, polls did show that more than 60 percent of Arizonans agreed that abortion should be kept legal, and independents favored protecting abortion rights by a three-to-one ratio," wrote Abramsky. "Pollsters were divided, however, on whether those numbers would translate to electoral success for Democrats in a state that by most measures still trended vaguely red — especially in midterm elections, which, historically, Democrats and young voters don’t turn out for in particularly large numbers. In September, Mike Noble of OH Predictive Insights, one of the state’s most respected polling organizations, surveyed likely voters and found that inflation was a more important issue than abortion for every demographic except Democrats age 55 and older. Around Phoenix, residents could be seen wearing pro-Trump T-shirts reading 'I’ll take mean tweets and low gas prices any day.'"
The Dobbs decision rolling back abortion rights did trigger a wave of new women registering to vote, but pollsters on both sides were unsure that would actually be enough to fight back the typical Democratic turnout penalty in a midterm year. Some speculated that even if Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly beat back Masters, enough voters would split their ticket to elect Lake and other downballot election deniers. But it didn't happen.
"Had Lake and her fellow extremists won, the result would have presented one of the greatest challenges to American democracy in modern times, with the political apparatus of a major swing state now dedicated to perpetuating Trump’s Big Lie and the corrosive, authoritarian politics that follows in its wake," wrote Abramsky. "Fortunately, enough independent voters shunned the GOP to head the extremists off at the pass."
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Ultimately, it was the one-two punch of voters being enraged over the loss of abortion rights, and the fact that Republicans spent all their time talking about stolen election conspiracy theories rather than fight back, alienating even moderate Republicans, who started crossing the aisle — and further polarizing the major urban centers of Phoenix, often swingy, and Tucson, a blue bastion.
"Many moderate Republicans, including John Giles, the mayor of Mesa — who boasts that it’s one of the most populous cities in the United States with a Republican mayor — joined liberals in seeing the Lake-Hamadeh-Finchem combo as an unprecedented threat to the functioning of American democracy," wrote Abramsky. "Giles had very publicly endorsed Katie Hobbs, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, as well as Mark Kelly ... In the final weeks of the campaign, outgoing Wyoming Representative Liz Cheney came to Arizona to stump for Democrats and against the election-denying troika of GOP hopefuls."