Apr 11, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Arizona: The new ground zero for the 2024 election

Photo illustration of a collage of migrants at the U.S-Mexico border and a patient in a medical room with abstract linework.

Photo illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios. Photos: Eric Thayer/Bloomberg, John Moore/Getty Images

Suddenly, Arizona is ground zero for the hottest political conflicts driving the 2024 campaign.

Why it matters: It's not just that its reinstated, Civil War-era abortion ban and its border crisis have put the Grand Canyon State on the front burner of American politics.

  • It's also a crucial swing state that will go a long way toward determining the next president — and that will test Republicans' growing support among Latinos.
  • And it's home to a tight Senate race that will help determine control of that chamber — and test how a 2020 election denier, Trump loyalist Kari Lake, will fare in 2024.
  • It's also one of the only battleground states with more than one highly competitive House seat. Republican Reps. David Schweikert and Juan Ciscomani's races are rated as "toss ups" by Cook Political Report.

Driving the news: This week, however, it's all about the fallout from an Arizona court's ruling that upheld an 1864 near-total abortion ban, which was based on the conservative-led U.S. Supreme Court's rejection of a federal right to abortion in the Dobbs decision.

  • Within hours of the Arizona ruling, Vice President Kamala Harris — the Biden campaign's point person on reproductive rights — had tweaked her schedule to turn a long-planned trip to Arizona on Friday into a campaign stop.
  • Having a campaign event will allow Harris to go further politically — and repeatedly attack former President Trump by name — than if she were on official business.
  • Trump has bragged about appointing three Supreme Court justices who helped overturn abortion rights under Roe v. Wade. Now he and other Republicans are dealing with the fallout — and Democrats are seizing on it.

The Biden-Harris campaign plans to surge its spending on media ads focused on abortion in the state during the coming days and weeks, a campaign official told Axios.

  • Lake's Democratic opponent, Ruben Gallego, pounced with several fundraising emails.
  • Meanwhile, Lake — echoing Republicans across the nation who had cheered the demise of abortion rights — distanced herself from the harsh restrictions she once endorsed, calling for "an immediate common sense solution that Arizonans can support."
  • And Trump sought some footing on the issue Wednesday, promising not to sign a federal abortion ban and saying that Arizona's law goes too far.

The big picture: Just as Republicans have been rushing to minimize the political damage on reproductive rights, Democrats for months have been scrambling to counter GOP attacks on border security and illegal immigration.

  • President Biden, who like other Democrats had criticized Trump's harsh border policies, now is considering sweeping executive border actions as soon as this month, as Trump continues to blast him over an "open border."
  • Arizona has been a reflection of that dynamic: Gallego has been forced to take a harder line on immigration while Lake has made the border a top issue in her campaign, decrying an "invasion."

Concerns about drug trafficking and unauthorized immigration have particular resonance in Arizona, which had a striking 328,000 illegal border crossings into the state in the five months of the fiscal year that began Oct. 1, according to DHS data.

  • "The border is by far the number-one issue" in Arizona, National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair Steve Daines (R-Mont.) told Axios.
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