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Clinton and Kaine Throw Down in Arizona

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Showing they get the politics of immigration, the importance of the Latino vote and the importance of defeating Trumpism

Something surprising is happening in the campaign’s homestretch. Instead of following the old Democratic Party playbook – speak in targeted ways to Latinos and about immigration – the Hillary Clinton campaign is leaning in. Just look at the resources and time being devoted to Arizona.

Yesterday, Hillary Clinton showed up in the reddish but purplish state of Arizona. She doesn’t need to win Arizona to win the presidency. But she showed up and spoke to one of the largest crowds of her campaign at Arizona State University in Tempe.

Clinton not only criticized Donald Trump for his inflammatory views toward Latinos and immigrants, but referenced the battle to unseat notorious anti-immigrant Sheriff Joe Arpaio by invoking the name of his challenger Paul Penzone and saying, “I think it’s time you had a new sheriff in town, don’t you?” Today, Tim Kaine will deliver a speech in Phoenix entirely in Spanish.

The Clinton-Kaine appearances in Arizona offer a sharp contrast to Donald Trump’s dark and virulently anti-immigrant speech delivered in Phoenix on August 31st (a much-touted speech that, in the end, confirmed that Trump’s predicted “softening” on immigration was merely rhetorical). The Clinton and Kaine Arizona appearances reflects the fact that their campaign gets the new politics of immigration.

Overwhelmingly and increasingly, the American public sides with Clinton on immigration and rejects the dark and deportation-focused radicalism of Donald Trump. For example, polling from Pew Research released last week finds that by a 4:1 margin Americans support a policy that allows undocumented immigrants to stay legally over a deportation-focused approach. Even Trump backers support legalization over deportation by nearly 2:1. In fact, support for “stay” over “go” is at an all-time high of 80% of the 11 times Pew has asked the same question.  Highlighting a similar finding from other recent public polls, the Washington Post recently noted that Trump’s overt nativism actually is “increasing sympathy for immigrants and depressing support for his harsh enforcement techniques.”

The Clinton-Kaine ticket’s appearances in Arizona, along with a significant investment in advertising in the state, mean the Democrats not only want to defeat Trump, but they want to defeat Trumpism – a point captured by the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent:

“Winning Arizona is certainly a heavy lift, and some are suggesting that it could prove a waste of time. And she may not win it. But the Clinton campaign is not only campaigning in Arizona today because it is hoping to pull off a surprise heist of its 11 electoral college votes.

A win in Arizona would also constitute a larger victory over Trumpism writ large, one with potentially lasting ramifications for both the Republican Party and for the immigration debate that is likely to unfold between Clinton and Republicans, if she is elected president.

“If we’re able to defeat Trumpism in Arizona, that will probably mean its ultimate long-term death,” Seth Scott, the Arizona state director for the Clinton campaign, tells me.

As I’ve argued, defeating Trump in Arizona would be significant, because the state represents in miniature a confluence of broader national trends. Arizona is where Trump delivered his hate-filled immigration speech, where notorious Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio faces a tough reelection fight, and where the hardline state law SB 1070 passed in 2010, igniting a national debate over what is widely seen as a discriminatory enforcement model. It’s also where Democrats are simultaneously trying to harness demographic shifts (the population of Latinos is growing) to turn it into a purple state.

With states like New Mexico, Colorado, and Nevada now turning purple-to-bluish, Arizona is in the next round of dominoes that Democrats eventually hope to knock down. As immigration advocates on both right and left have argued, defeating Trumpism there might signal to Republicans that a hardline position on immigration is a long term demographic and political loser for the party.”