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Arizona continues steady leftward march

With Democrats leading in Arizona’s Senate and presidential races, one might think the Grand Canyon State is about to dramatically flip from red to blue.

Arizona hasn’t had two Democratic senators since the early 1950s and no Democratic presidential candidate has won here since Bill Clinton in 1996, but there has always been a blue streak running through the state — and it has been widening for decades.

Several factors have combined to shift the state leftward, but none of it is new, said University of Arizona political science professor Tom Volgy.

“I think these trends were there all along,” Volgy said. “I think the Democratic Party could have exploited these trends four years ago or eight years ago, but it chose not to invest its resources in Arizona because of this common misperception that Arizona is such a red state.”

One hint that the blue shift isn’t a fluke can be seen in the state’s congressional delegation, where five out of nine are Democrats. That’s starkly different from the 1980s, when Morris K. Udall was the only Democrat, Volgy said.

“That’s a sign that this is not a weird one-shot phenomenon,” he said.

Most polls show former Vice-President Joe Biden leading President Donald Trump in Arizona, but that lead is consistently within the margin of error. On Friday, Biden had a lead of just 3.1%, according to the FiveThirtyEight polling average.

In the Senate race, retired astronaut and space shuttle commander Mark Kelly, a Democrat, is leading retired combat pilot and incumbent Arizona Senator Martha McSally in 10 polls reported this week.

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Voting is already underway, via mail and at early in-person polls, and the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office is ready to handle the increase in early ballots, said spokeswoman Sophia Solis.

“Arizonans have been voting by mail for many years, and therefore we have been equipped to handle an increase in ballots-by-mail. This year, we mailed applications to voters who are not on the Permanent Early Voting List in order to give them an opportunity to join if they wished to,” Solis said.

Arizona will have a head start on some other states where counting is concerned. A new law allows ballots to be counted starting 14 days before the election. Unofficial results will be posted starting at 8 p.m. Tuesday.

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'We know that the road to the Senate majority goes through Arizona,' said Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez, who came to the Grand Canyon state earlier this month to hand out signs and rally Democrats.