A new Public Policy Polling survey puts Arizona in play in November, but pollster Tom Jensen ultimately puts AZ in the GOP column:
Arizona is a great microcosm of how Barack Obama's reelection prospects have improved over the last 3 months. When we polled there in November his approval numbers were atrocious and his prospects for winning the state in the general election didn't look very good. Now he's getting more popular, the Republicans are getting less popular, and he appears to have a decent chance there.
Obama is tied with Mitt Romney in the state at 47%. He leads Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich each by 4 points, 46-42 and 48-44 respectively. The only Republican he actually runs behind is Rick Santorum, although only by a single point at 47-46. This is the latest in an increasingly long line of our polls recently that challenge the premise that Romney is a much stronger general election candidate than Santorum.
Obama's standing against Romney is greatly improved from November when he trailed by 7 points at 49-42. Part of the reason for that is Obama's own numbers have improved. He has a 46/52 approval rating in the state now where it was 41/54 three months ago. Obama's approval rating with Democrats has increased from 74% to 87% over that time. That's a trend we're seeing nationally- the longer the GOP race gets dragged out, the more Democrats unify around Obama. Obama's also flipped his numbers with independents from negative territory (35/57) to positive (51/46).
Part of Obama's resurgence is his becoming more popular. The other part though is Romney's numbers heading in the wrong direction. He was already unpopular in Arizona the last time we polled with a -13 favorability spread (38/51). Now he's dropped even further to -21 (35/56). Romney's numbers with Republicans are pretty much unchanged. But he's gone from having an unusual number of Democrats seeing him positively (25%) to only 15% who mar k him favorably across party lines now. And with independents he's dropped from a bad 32/56 to a worse 24/67. The drawn out nature of this campaign is not helping him for the general.
In the end I doubt Obama would be able to beat Romney in Arizona. He's getting 16% of the Republican vote right now and that seems unlikely to hold once the GOP gets unified around its nominee. But the fact that we're even talking about Arizona as potentially being on the board right now is a big a shift from where we were a couple months ago.