First Lady Michelle Obama is in Tucson Monday night for back-to-back events, the latest indication that Democrats hope to put deep-red Arizona in play in the general election.
At 8:40 p.m. Eastern, Obama will meet at Tucson International Airport with a group of students who volunteer at an urban farm. Then, at 9:10 p.m. Eastern, she will deliver remarks at a campaign event in Tucson.
The visit comes as part of a four-state swing for the first lady ahead of Saturday’s official Obama campaign kick-off events in Ohio and Virginia. In recent weeks, both the president and first lady have held a steady stream of political events, but the Obama campaign contends that Saturday will mark the formal beginning of the general election .
Earlier Monday, Michelle Obama made two appearances in Colorado Springs, Colo., at a closed-door meeting with campaign volunteers and at the opening ceremony for the 2012 Warrior Games, a competition for injured service members.
On Tuesday, the first lady heads to Las Vegas, Nev., where she delivers remarks at a morning fundraiser and later meets with campaign volunteers and supporters.
She wraps up the trip with a pair of events in Albuquerque, N.M. She will meet with service members at Albuquerque International Airport and will later headline a fundraiser.
Democrats have pointed to recent polls showing both a tight presidential race in Arizona as well as a close Senate race between Democrat Richard Carmona and likely GOP nominee Jeff Flake. In a conference call with reporters last Wednesday, Obama campaign manager Jim Messina argued that those polls suggest “there are even more pathways (to the presidency) than there were before.”
Democrats have also cited increased numbers including the 338,000-person increase in Arizona’s voting-age Hispanic population since 2000 — a rise that comprises nearly 40 percent of the state’s total voting-age population growth over the past 12 years.
Republicans have dismissed as wishful thinking Democrats’ claims that Arizona may be in play in November.
“The fundamental problem with the national Democrats’ spin on Arizona is that it’s just that — spin,” National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Brian Walsh said. “Our message to Arizonans this year is a simple one — if they support the liberal Obama agenda of a bigger government, more regulation, higher taxes and a record debt, than they will love the President’s hand-picked Senate recruit Richard Carmona. We look forward to Carmona and President Obama campaigning side-by-side and sharing their liberal views with Arizonans this fall.”
Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman Matt Canter responded by pointing to praise that Carmona, who served in the George W. Bush administration, has received from prominent Republicans as well as Democrats.
“Jon Kyl, John McCain, George Bush and the entire US Senate all agreed that Dr. Richard Carmona brought valuable independent credentials and expertise to the job of Surgeon General and he will bring the problem solving to the US Senate,” Canter said in an e-mail. “Jeff Flake, a former lobbyist turned career politician, may be the choice of the Washington establishment, but he faces an increasingly competitive primary challenge. All reasons why Democrats are extremely optimistic this year.”
Vice President Joe Biden, and GOP presidential front-runner Mitt Romney (R) also have visited Arizona earlier this month.