Biden campaign to make up ground in Arizona

ARIZONA • Mr Joe Biden's campaign does not have any staff in Arizona, a state many Democrats believe would give him a clear path to victory over President Donald Trump. He also has not campaigned there while Mr Trump has visited twice since mid-February.

Mr Biden's campaign promises to make up ground quickly by adding staff in coming weeks. And while the slow start might make Democrats anxious, polling shows the former vice-president is leading Mr Trump in a possible Sun Belt antidote to the Democrats' Rust Belt disappointments of 2016.

Still, Mr David Lujan, a former Democratic state legislator who now runs the Arizona Centre for Economic Progress, said Mr Trump's incumbency has given him a head start that Mr Biden must overcome. The President has "been here several times over the last several years", Mr Lujan said. "I think that's helped him build that ground presence... That doesn't mean Biden can't catch up to him."

The episode has echoes of Mr Biden's ground-game stumbles during the primaries that had some analysts saying he was finished - until his turnaround victory in South Carolina.

And the very groups he is counting on to win in the state - Latinos and young people - are the ones that often require a great deal of organising muscle to turn their vast numbers into votes.

Mr Trump won Arizona over Mrs Hillary Clinton in 2016 by 3.5 percentage points, but Mr Biden has led in every 2020 poll in the state, with a four-point lead now over the President, according to the RealClearPolitics average of Arizona state polls.

Since Mrs Clinton's loss, Democrats have won a Senate seat and three other statewide races in the state. A Biden victory there would be the first for a Democratic presidential nominee since Mr Bill Clinton in 1996.

Democrats are upbeat about Mr Biden's chances because former astronaut Mark Kelly is viewed as a strong challenger against Republican Senator Martha McSally, a former US Air Force fighter pilot seen as one of the Republicans' most endangered incumbents. Mr Kelly is the husband of former House representative Gabrielle Giffords, who was severely injured in a 2011 assassination bid.

"This state is likely to turn blue, and it's more likely to turn blue than some of the traditional Midwest states that used to be considered battlegrounds," said Representative Ruben Gallego, an Arizona Democrat.

Mr Biden's campaign manager Jen O'Malley Dillon said last week that Arizona would be a major focus, and leadership and organising staff in battleground states would be in place by June.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 23, 2020, with the headline 'Biden campaign to make up ground in Arizona'. Print Edition | Subscribe