Byron York
Phoenix - According to the conventional wisdom after last year's presidential election, Barack Obama's victory proved that a number of once-reliably red states -- Virginia, North Carolina, and Colorado among them -- were turning blue, perhaps permanently. Even here in Arizona, Obama gave Republican favorite son John McCain a run for his money, and the 2008 election handed a majority of the state's congressional districts to Democrats. The home of Barry Goldwater might not have been truly blue, but it was shading purple.

That was then. Now, with Democrats pushing an agenda of stimulus, cap and trade, and health care reform -- all opposed by majorities of Republicans and independents -- we might be seeing the re-reddening of Arizona. Or, rather, the re-emergence of the state that has always been.

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"I think Arizona has always been a state that can go blue for individuals, but fundamentally, in terms of attitudes, it remains a libertarian/conservative state," says Margaret Kenski, owner of Arizona Opinion, a Republican-oriented polling firm. Kenski says her polling has consistently shown that about 20 percent of Arizonans describe themselves as liberal, while 35 percent call themselves moderate, 23 percent call themselves somewhat conservative, and 22 percent say they are very conservative. The bottom line: "It's always been a moderately conservative state," says Kenski.

But now, Democrats control five of Arizona's eight congressional seats. Three of those five Democrats -- Reps. Ann Kirkpatrick, Harry Mitchell, and Gabrielle Giffords -- hail from districts that are largely Republican. Kirkpatrick is a freshman, while Mitchell and Giffords were first elected in 2006, meaning they are all products of elections in which voters rejected GOP candidates because of unhappiness with George W. Bush and the GOP majority in Congress. Now, it is Democrats who are likely to bear the burden of voter discontent.

Kirkpatrick, Mitchell, and Giffords all voted for the $787 billion stimulus bill. They all voted for the House national health care bill. And Giffords voted for cap and trade.* Those won't be easy records to defend in 2010.

"We have three districts in the state that should or could be Republican," says one long-time Arizona politico who asked to be nameless. "Conditions for Republican pickups should be the best we've ever had."


Byron York

Byron York, chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner