Arizona is considered to be one of top target areas for both the Bush and Kerry campaigns. Strategists for both candidates believe that by focusing on Latinos in Florida, New Mexico, Nevada, and Arizona -- where a quarter of the population is Hispanic -- they can offset the difference in votes seen during the 2000 election. Both presidential candidates are hoping voter registration drives, advertisements in Spanish and English and community events will gain them favor with Hispanic voters. Kerry has an asset in Arizona -- the state's Democratic governor. Gov. Janet Napolitano's appeal will likely help mobilize Democratic and Latino voters
The state was identified early on as a battleground state in the race and has remained so. Arizona is still viewed by some outsiders as a conservative stronghold influenced by the late Sen. Barry Goldwater. But Democrats are encouraged by victories in the attorney general and governor's races in 2002 and by the 1996 victory by President Clinton, the first Democratic presidential candidate to prevail in Arizona since Harry Truman in 1948.
Political scientists say Arizona's rapid growth, which gave it two more electoral votes after the last census, is making it more moderate.
While Republicans hold a registration advantage over Democrats, more than a quarter of the state's 2.2 million voters are registered in the other-party category.
Longtime Republican Sen. John McCain is up for re-election in 2004 and he isn't expected to face much of a challenge from Democrat Stuart Starky, a teacher who ran unsuccessfully against the late GOP Rep. Bob Stump in 1998.
McCain, who had challenged Bush for the GOP nomination in 2000, is a friend of Kerry's and has been mentioned as a possible vice presidential choice, a notion the Republican has tried to quash. McCain has been named as a top leader in Bush's re-election campaign in the state.
A key race to watch this year is the state's 1st congressional district. First-term GOP Rep. Rick Renzi, who won narrowly in 2002, is a top Democratic target. Democrats are pinning their hopes on Paul Babbitt, brother of former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt.
Freshman U.S. Rep. Trent Franks easily beat back a primary challenge from Rick Murphy, who owns several radio stations in the state, to capture the Republican nomination in the 2nd Congressional District.
Franks will next face Democrat Randy Camacho in the Nov. 2 general election for the seat, which represents a mostly conservative area that stretches from the west Phoenix suburbs, along the Colorado River and to the Hopi Indian Reservation.