The presidential campaign has left Arizona behind.
Democratic Sen. John Kerry (search) made four visits and spent nearly $4 million on television commercials in an attempt to make the state competitive. But polls this fall show President Bush with a comfortable lead, and Kerry has tabled plans for advertising in the first week of October.
The Bush campaign responded by pulling down its commercials Friday. Kerry has not ruled out airing Arizona ads in late October, but advisers say privately it would take a significant shift in the race to put the state back in play.
Four years ago, Bush won the state with 51 percent of the vote compared with Democrat Al Gore's 44.7 percent.
Kerry's team thought there was a chance to close that gap, partly because of Arizona's fast-growing Hispanic population. The state has been moving slowly to the political center since its days as the conservative stronghold of Barry Goldwater, the longtime senator and the 1964 GOP presidential nominee. Nearly one-fourth of Arizona's voters register as independents.
But the president has courted Hispanics as well as Republican-leaning voters in the state's suburbs and rural areas.
Before Labor Day, Kerry's campaign spent $3.7 million on television advertising while the Democratic National Committee spent $800,000 in the state. Arizona joins Missouri, North Carolina, Arkansas and Louisiana as GOP-leaning states that Kerry has taken off his target list barring a surge in his national political ratings.
BY THE NUMBERS:
24 — Percentage of voters registered as independents, more than double the figure of 20 years ago.
25 — Portion of Arizona's population that is Hispanic.
22 — Number of American Indian tribes in the state.
350 — Miles of Arizona land that border Mexico.
— "It seems like he's an honest, true candidate." — Kingman barbershop owner Jim Pease, talking about Kerry. "He doesn't seem like he's hiding behind a bunch of stuff that when he gets into office he's not going to make good on."
— "He seems a little fake, like he's just trying to please the crowd at the moment just to get the vote." — Carol Greene of Golden Valley with a different view of the Democratic challenger.
Bill Clinton was the first Democrat to win Arizona since 1948.
WHAT TO WATCH ON ELECTION NIGHT:
Three-fourths of the state's 2.4 million voters are registered in two counties: Pima (Tucson) and Maricopa (Phoenix). Republicans hold a slight advantage in Maricopa; Pima is a Democratic stronghold.
Some believe that a voter initiative aimed at clamping down on illegal immigration will increase the Hispanic turnout in November.
IN ARIZONA FOUR YEARS AGO:
Bush won Arizona with 51 percent compared with Gore's 44.7 percent. Bush carried Maricopa County with a slightly higher edge but lost Pima County. Exit polls showed Bush's key support came from older people and whites, and Gore won the state's Hispanic vote.