In his spare time at college, Carmona earned a medical degree. In fact, he served as surgeon general during George W. Bush’s presidency.
Carmona has yet to leap a tall building in a single bound, but Democrats here are counting on him to provide some political heroics: They’re hoping Carmona will not just take a Republican seat but also give President Obama the boost he needs to win Arizona, the one red state his campaign thinks can be turned blue this year.
“The perspective out here is if a group of consultants got together in a room and wanted to build a perfect candidate, we’d come out with Carmona,” said Bob Grossfeld, an Arizona Democratic strategist.
Barry Dill, another Democratic consultant in Arizona, said, “Him having a Hispanic surname, being Hispanic himself, speaking fluent Spanish — I think some of us Democrats are thinking that he may have more coattails for the president than the president may have for Dr. Carmona.”
Picking up a Senate seat and the state may be wishful thinking for Democrats. The biggest issue here — the state’s controversial law targeting illegal immigration, which the Obama administration has asked the Supreme Court to overturn — is very popular among Arizonans and has been a political boon to Republicans.
Obama’s approval rating in Arizona stands at about 40 percent, much lower than his standing nationally, according to numbers released by Gallup in January. And Bill Clinton is the only Democrat to have won here in more than half a century — and he barely did so on his second try, in 1996, with Ross Perot peeling off 8 percent of the vote.
“The fundamental problem with the national Democrats’ spin on Arizona is that it’s just that – spin,” said National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Brian Walsh.
“They thought they were going to take over the [state] Senate and the House two years ago,” said state Sen. Russell Pearce, sponsor of SB 1070, the anti-illegal-immigration bill. “We got the largest majority ever in the history of the state of Arizona in the Senate and the House. And you know what brought it there? SB 1070.
“So, it’s nice to have hope and dreams, you know, but it ain’t gonna happen,” he added.
At the moment, though, two recent independent
polls show Obama and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, the presumed Republican presidential nominee, in a dead heat in Arizona. Obama campaign manager Jim Messina argued during a conference call last week that the polls show that “there are even more pathways [to the presidency] than there were before.”