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Arizona Has Voted Republican In 11 Of Last 12 Elections, Could Clinton Win There?

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

All this morning, we're taking you to places where the presidential campaign is unfolding in ways you really might not have expected six months ago. Our next stop is in the southwest - Arizona, traditionally a Republican stronghold, so much so that the Republican nominee has carried the state in 11 of the last 12 presidential elections - the one exception, Bill Clinton. And the question, now - could a Clinton carry Arizona again?

Joseph Garcia is at the Morrison Institute for Public Policy at Arizona State University. And he's on the line now from Gilbert, Ariz. Good morning.

JOSEPH GARCIA: Good morning.

KELLY: Start with that fact. Eleven of the last 12 election years, Arizona has tipped Republican. I mean, that sounds like a state where the political landscape has not changed very much in recent decades. Is that the case?

GARCIA: Well, it would sound like that, but actually, Arizona is pretty much a purple state at this point. Although, it has been pretty much in the pocket of Republicans when it comes to presidential race and even statewide offices.

But the political landscape is changing very rapidly due to the young Latinos who are coming up and, through the maturation process, will become eligible to vote.

KELLY: You mentioned the maturation process - meaning people who have lived here, who are maybe second, third-generation Americans at this point.

GARCIA: Yeah, mostly I'm talking about the young Latinos who were born here. Now, maybe one or both parents were not and do not have U.S. citizenship and thereby cannot vote. But their children were almost - virtually all of them were born here and can vote once they reach 18. And that's the big shift - is eligible voters here in Arizona.

KELLY: And how big is the Latino vote in Arizona?

GARCIA: Well, you know, it's changing all the time. In 2010, about 25 percent of the adults in Arizona were Latinos. By 2030, that changes to 35 percent. So it's a big shift. That'd be a 178 percent increase in the number of Latino citizens age 20 and older between - you know, in those 20 years.

2030 also happens to be the year that we project and the census projects that Arizona will become a minority-majority state, which is about 15 years earlier than the nation. So we're experiencing that rapid growth of young Latinos who are coming into voting age very quickly. And it's going to make a change in Arizona.

KELLY: Well, stay with that for a minute because I know research from your center has suggested that Arizona would flip from Republican to Democratic around that date - 2030. How surprising would it be if the tipping point came instead this fall, next month?

GARCIA: Yeah, I think you're going to see an initial wave of that. But again, the big tsunami comes to about 2030 because, you know, it's all - many Latinos aren't old enough to vote yet. You know, they're young, and they're galvanized. And I think they're thoroughly behind the, you know, election process. But many of them just aren't old enough to vote yet. So you're going to see, I think, an initial wave this time. And you'll see it the next election. You'll see it the next election.

KELLY: The other big question mark is, of course, voter turnout, which has sometimes been an issue with Latino voters in Arizona. And a Clinton win would depend on it. Is high turnout something she can count on?

GARCIA: Well, it's something that has been problematic for Latino voters for a long time - turning out at a much lower percentage than the non-Latinos. But it seems this election is different as far as the mobilization of Latinos. One group called One Arizona - it's a coalition of Latinos and immigrant groups...

KELLY: OK.

GARCIA: ...Have registered 140,000 new voters. And they're going to work equally hard to get the vote out.

KELLY: To turn them out. That's Joseph Garcia. He's director of the Latino Public Policy Center at Arizona State University's Morrison Institute. Thanks a lot.

GARCIA: Thank you.

KELLY: Arizona is one of several battleground states we're tracking this morning. Elsewhere in the show, we're hearing from Ohio, Georgia and a key district in Maine. And there's even more of this coming week. The final presidential debate is Wednesday night. That's 9 o'clock Eastern, and our live coverage will be airing on many NPR stations. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.