A bipartisan panel of Arizona political veterans undertook the challenging task Sept. 29 of predicting how this year’s local and national elections will ultimately turn out. In addition to the word “unpredictable” being uttered several times, the panelists think Arizona won’t turn blue in 2016 and it will be a good year for the business community.
The Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce hosted a panel featuring Barry Dill, partner, FirstStrategic Communications & Public Affairs; Warde Nichols, principal with Clarus Companies and former Arizona lawmaker and Sean Noble, partner, Axiom Public Affairs during its Premier Leadership Series: Election Projections event at the National Bank of Arizona Conference Center. The discussion was moderated by GPCC PAC Chairman John Moody.
The most spirited opinions from the panel came during a discussion of the presidential battle.
Dill, a Democrat who worked for Bill Clinton’s successful 1996 Arizona campaign and on all of former Gov. Janet Napolitano’s statewide races, believes that Hillary will win the White House, but will not win Arizona. He says even top-tier Democratic candidates in Arizona tend to fall about six percentage points short in statewide races. But he concedes the race is far from over.
“The outcome of the presidential race could hinge on something that hasn’t even happened yet,” Dill said.
Noble, a Republican who helped pioneer independent expenditure committees and started his career under former U.S. Congressman John Shadegg, says presidential elections ultimately boil down to which candidate voters trust more. The notion, which he got from Stephen Shadegg’s 1964 book “How to Win an Election: The Art of Political Victory,” was cemented for him in 2012, when Barack Obama won a second term over Mitt Romney. Election night exit polls told him that swing voters described Obama as “disappointing,” but considered Romney a “liar.”
“They’ll vote for someone they’re disappointed in before they’ll vote for a liar. However, I have no idea how this year plays out because neither candidate can be trusted. Whoever wins will walk into the White House with the lowest approval rating in U.S. history,” Noble said.
Even with that said, Noble gives Trump an edge over Clinton. “I think while Clinton’s path looks easier, in some ways, this race is Trump’s to lose,” Noble said. “He is completely unpredictable just like the electorate is completely unpredictable.”
However, if Clinton wins, Noble says, many of the Obama people stay and become more emboldened. “The entrenched bureaucracy put in place during the past eight years will stay. I think it will get worse.” Noble added that he has hope for a Trump presidency because Trump’s team has reached out to some “very smart, sophisticated” people who would likely become his advisers.
Turning their attention to Arizona, the panelists see a Legislature populated by an increasing number of pro-business candidates with one wild-card scenario to consider.
The panelists agree that the candidates and incumbents are increasingly business-savvy, business friendly and will likely consider many business-friendly bills. However, if history is any indication, Nichols, a 4-term GOP lawmaker from Gilbert, says one unlikely situation could really impede progress on that front.
“If we do end up with a 15-15 split Arizona Senate,” Nichols said, “All bets are off. If you look at the last time there was a split, a whole lot of nothing got done.”
Despite this potential outcome, the panelists all believe the Senate will end up with either 17-13 or 16-14 split in favor of Republicans. One major Arizona Senate battle to keep an eye on is incumbent Senate Republican Kate Brophy McGee versus House incumbent Democrat Eric Meyer in Legislative District 28.
In the Arizona House, panelists expect to see battles in Legislative Districts 6, 8 and 18.
Propositions 205 (recreational marijuana legalization) and 206 (minimum wage increase) had panelists trying to forecast the effect millennials might have at the polls. Dill says there could be a benefit to the pro sides of these issues. Nichols describes the minimum wage initiative (206) as “at risk of passing.” Noble thinks minimum wage will pass, but thinks the marijuana legalization initiative will turn out more “no” voters than “yes” voters.
Noble closed with a round-about way of encouraging people to go out and vote.
“What should worry you more than anything is if this is a close election, the people who will decide aren’t even paying attention to politics right now,” Noble said. “Stephen Shadegg called them ‘the indifferents.’ They’re the least-informed, the least engaged and the ones who will decide who the next president is.”
– Written by Josh Coddington, marketing and communications manager, Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce.