Nov 13, 2023 - Politics

Dean Phillips, who? Biden challenger doesn't register for Arizona swing voters

One voter said Dean Phillips, left, resembles a "very young DeSantis." Phillips is nine years older than Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. Photos: Gaelen Morse/Getty Images and Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The launch of U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips' longshot primary challenge against President Biden has yet to land him on the radar of some Sun Belt swing voters.

Why it matters: The lack of awareness in a key 2024 battleground state illustrates the difficulty a relatively unknown member of Congress faces in challenging a sitting president.

What's happening: Most Arizona participants in our latest Engagious/Sago swing voter focus groups thought Biden getting a primary challenger was a good thing, Axios' Eugene Scott writes.

  • But none could identify Phillips by name based on a photo.
  • And once they were introduced, some weren't sure the Minnesota Democrat was the best candidate for the job.

What they're saying: "He looks like a very young [Ron] DeSantis," one voter mused. Another offered that he "looks like somebody from Iowa," but couldn't place him.

  • A third guessed he was a Republican.

Yes, but: At 54, Phillips is actually nine years older than the GOP governor and presidential candidate from Florida.

  • The longtime Democrat grew up in the Twin Cities, about 100 miles from the Iowa border.

Between the lines: The focus group's voters were largely unpersuaded after watching Phillips' first New Hampshire TV ad. Several said he looked too young to be presidential, even as participants expressed concerns about Biden's age and health.

  • One woman called the upbeat tone seen as central to his electoral success back home "just really cheesy." Another said the ad seemed like a "very fluffy marketing-esque campaign."

Reality check: A focus group is not a statistically significant sample like a poll, and Arizona swing voters are not Phillips' current target audience.

The other side: The Phillips campaign did not respond to a request for comment on the voters' views.

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