Out to Topple Grijalva

Hank Stephenson of the Nogales International gauges Republican Gabby Saucedo Mercer's chances against Congressman Raul Grijalva in 2012:

Kate Kenski, a longtime pollster and University of Arizona assistant professor of communications, agrees that Latinos might give Saucedo Mercer a shot if she can connect with those who also take a strong stance against illegal immigration.

Generally speaking, Latinos are a group that is willing to cross party lines for a candidate, as they did for George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004, Kenski said. In order to win over those swing voters, Saucedo Mercer needs to tailor her message to voters who are willing to let some issues, like immigration, slide in support of a candidate they agree with on other issues, like education or the economy.

Also helping her chances is the fact that Rep. Grijalva has been a political lightning rod, and the district, which was formerly considered safe for Democrats, showed its conservative side last election season when Republican challenger Ruth McClung won 44.2 percent of the vote to Grijalva’s 50.2 percent. McClung, a political novice, was able to raise big bucks and run a strong campaign against the incumbent due, in large part, to Grijalva’s call for a boycott of the state. Santa Cruz County still voted more than two-to-one in favor of Grijalva.

But that was a mid-term election, and 2012 will be a different animal altogether, said Tom Volgy, a professor at the University of Arizona School of Government and Public Policy who served as a Democratic Tucson city councilman and mayor before making a failed bid for Congress in 1998.

The turnout for the 2012 election will be 50 percent higher than the 2010 election, Volgy estimated, and that will benefit Democrats and incumbents. The next election will be a referendum on the president, the economy and maybe the newly-elected House Republican majority, he said.

“No Republican challenger is likely to have much of an impact (in the district),” Volgy said, though he noted that may change if the economy tanks again or the president approval ratings take a dive.

Volgy, who immigrated to the United States at the age of 9 when his parents fled Hungary, said by the next election cycle, depending on the economy, the immigration hard-liners may find themselves losing public support.

“(Senate Bill) 1070 came about at a time of horrendous economical conditions and under those circumstances people end up supporting some crazy things,” he said. “As economy gets better voters, citizens begin to return to more sanity about immigration issues.”

Read the whole thing here.