Sunday, 17 Jan 2021

Democrats made inroads in Arizona. But it’s a deeply divided place.

PHOENIX — In the moonlight, dozens of people hollered and embraced, dropping the rules of social distancing as they celebrated a win after a long year: hundreds of thousands of Latino voters registered, calls made and doors knocked amid a pandemic that had devastated their communities. Though it would be days before the final result in Arizona was clear, the people working to shore up Latino support for Democrats in the state were already convinced that they helped shape history. They had come through the crucible of a pervasive anti-immigrant sentiment and a decade later, flipped the state and delivered wins.

“Tonight we claim victory because we showed up,” said Stephanie Maldonado, the political director for Lucha, a civil rights group that helped coordinate efforts for Democrats.

Four days later, when the state was still uncalled but Joseph R. Biden Jr. had been declared the winner nationally, protesters who supported the president showed up at the state capitol. They waved Trump flags, some depicting the president as a Rambo-like figure, and many carried rifles and military-style guns of their own. The several hundred people gathered in the blazing sun were convinced, without evidence, that the election had been stolen from President Trump, and they were there to express their distrust — in the news media, in the electoral process, in almost any political figure other than Mr. Trump.

The two scenes — young Latinos celebrating victory, angry protesters refusing to concede defeat — are emblematic of the deep divide in Arizona. Though Mr. Biden won the state, making him only the second Democrat presidential candidate to do so since 1948, he did so with the thinnest of margins, receiving roughly 11,000 votes or 0.3 percentage points more than Mr. Trump.

And while there are examples of significant change, with the state sending two Democrats to the Senate for the first time in decades, it is far too early to declare the state blue. Instead, officials from both parties agree, the election was clearly a referendum on Mr. Trump, the most divisive president in recent history.

“It’s certainly not blue, and I’m not even sure it’s purple, it’s magenta, or the lightest shade of red,” said Mike Noble, the chief pollster at OH Predictive Insights, a nonpartisan research group based in Phoenix. “If there was such a Democratic surge, we would have seen in down ballot, but you didn’t see that impact.”

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