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Arizona Primary Overshadowed By Michigan

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Arizona Primary Overshadowed By Michigan

Elections

Arizona Primary Overshadowed By Michigan

Arizona Primary Overshadowed By Michigan

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Audie Cornish talks with Ted Robbins about Tuesday's Arizona Republican primary. The candidates have spent very little time in the state, apart from last week's debate in Mesa. But the winner tonight will receive all of Arizona's 29 delegates.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Arizona is also holding its Republican presidential primary today, and NPR's Ted Robbins is with us to tell us what's happening there. Hello there, Ted.

TED ROBBINS, BYLINE: Hi, Audie.

CORNISH: So, to start, Arizona's primary contest has been much less heated than Michigan's. Why?

ROBBINS: Well, I think the main reason is that the polls have been showing Mitt Romney with the lead for a long time. Most of the recent polls have shown Romney with a comfortable lead. Candidates obviously spend their money and their time where they think it matters. And as far as I can tell, Romney was the only candidate to run ads in Arizona. Rick Santorum did make a couple of stops in Phoenix and Tucson last week before the nationally televised debate in Mesa.

CORNISH: And of course, delegates are allocated differently in Arizona versus Michigan. Can you talk about what's at stake then in Arizona? What do the candidates have to gain or lose?

ROBBINS: Almost the same number of delegates. Arizona has 29. Michigan has 30. Arizona, though, is a winner-take-all primary, while Michigan is divided up by congressional districts. So for the winner in Arizona, there's actually more at stake, but there is an asterisk by that winner-take-all. Arizona violated Republican Party rules by moving up its primary date and by doing the winner-take-all. So if the race is still tight by convention time, somebody could challenge Arizona's delegates, and the party would probably force Arizona to hand out those delegates proportionally.

CORNISH: Now, Arizona is a state that has a big vote-by-mail operation. So what exactly can we expect tonight?

ROBBINS: The polls will close at 7 p.m. local, 9 p.m. Eastern, and I'm guessing it's not going to take long to declare a winner. Election officials have projected that a third to a half of Arizona voters cast ballots early by mail, and they're also expecting low turnout. If there's a surprise at all, it'll probably be because of low turnout, say, Romney voters are complacent, and Santorum or Gingrich or Paul voters do show up strong at the polls. Romney has had unpleasant surprises like that throughout the primary season.

CORNISH: Well, one pleasant surprise for the Romney camp has been Arizona Governor Jan Brewer's endorsement of Romney this past weekend. How is that going to change things?

ROBBINS: Right. The last poll I saw on that subject showed that a quarter of the voters in Arizona said they viewed Jan Brewer's endorsement as positive. But the same poll showed that about 20 percent said they viewed her endorsement as negative. John McCain has been out there stumping for Romney. He'll be at Romney headquarters where we will be in Phoenix tonight and so will two of Romney's sons. None of the candidates are scheduled to be in Arizona.

CORNISH: And finally, Ted, in the time we have left, any sign from Arizona Republicans that they are maybe upstate that the state didn't get as much attention this time around?

ROBBINS: Nothing that I've seen so far. I think people were pleased that the last debate was held in Mesa. And a longtime pollster and political researcher, who we spoke with last week, Bruce Merrill, he has said that the weather is good in Arizona in the winter. People aren't mad or stomping around, and I would add, unless they're playing golf or hiking.

CORNISH: Ted, thank you for talking with us.

ROBBINS: You're welcome.

CORNISH: NPR's Ted Robbins.

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