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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: Bernie’s 50 States Blitz effectively engages non-swing states

On Friday, presidential candidate Bernie Sanders came to Tucson and was a greeted by over 13,000 supporters. As the first presidential candidate to campaign in Tucson this election cycle, and the fifth to do so in Arizona, the high attendance shows the enthusiasm of Arizona voters. Unfortunately, as the election starts to heat up, Arizona voters shouldn’t expect these visits to continue.

Although numerous political strategists have speculated that Arizona will soon become a swing state similar to Colorado or New Mexico due to changing demographics, Arizona has been solidly Republican for many election cycles. The last Democrat to win Arizona was Bill Clinton in 1996, and since then, other than Gov. Janet Napolitano, Republican legislatures, governors and presidential votes have dominated Arizona politics.

For this reason, Arizona is not typically considered one of the key swing states in presidential elections. Unlike Iowa, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida and a few others, which are all extremely competitive and dubbed “toss-ups”, Arizona is projected to vote Republican, which results in fewer candidate visits.

This isn’t a phenomenon unique to Arizona. States such as New York and California, which lean heavily Democratic, and Alabama and Oklahoma, which greatly favor Republicans, are substantially less likely to receive presidential visits or campaigns because political strategists already have written off their votes. The result of this, especially in the previous two election cycles, is that voters in nine or 10 states become significantly more important than everyone else.

But Bernie Sanders’ visit to Tucson points to an emerging strategy that could hopefully remedy this undemocratically leaning pattern. The 50-State Strategy, termed in 2005 by then-Democratic National Committee Chair Howard Dean, was a tactic by the Democratic Party to reinvigorate state parties across the U.S. After defeats in 2000 and 2004, the Democrats needed a resurgence in the public eye, and the 50-State Strategy proved effective.

The 2006 midterms gave the Democrats control of Congress, and the 2008 elections resulted in major victories for Democrats across all levels of government. The decision by Dean to hire full-time staff in every Democrat state office produced senate, congressional and presidential victories in states that Democrats were not accustomed to winning.

This election cycle, only Hillary Clinton has officially announced a 50-State Strategy. Based on Sanders’ events locations, however, it’s not unreasonable to speculate that he will likely pursue something similar. And Republicans, although they probably won’t refer to it using Dean’s language, have already capitalized on superior state organization to win commanding majorities in state legislatures across the U.S. Although we’ve had a Democratic president for eight years, many states have passed very conservative laws on abortion, environmental issues, gun control and voting rights as a result of Republican organizing on a statewide level.

The Democrats must follow the 50-State Strategy to win back Congress and elect a president in 2016. More than 13,000 Tucsonans went to see Bernie Sanders. Other rallies across the country have garnered similar attendance. People want to find candidates they like and are willing to be involved, were the national parties to give them a chance

Whichever party does a better job mobilizing and exciting their base in all 50 states will not only do a better job in the presidential election but will be able to give their president majorities in the other branches of government. Conceding defeat before the competition starts won’t change anything. Hopefully, Bernie’s event will spur more visits in the future and a reawakening of the political elite. All states matter.

Follow Jacob Winkelman on Twitter.

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