In interviews with undecided and late-deciding voters here, many said they had supported Trump four years ago, but that his behavior had either disqualified him in their minds or raised serious questions about whether he is fit for another term in office.
“I actually voted for Trump last time around because I thought he’d be a good change. But he has been a tremendous disappointment. To me, he’s an embarrassment to the presidency,” said Claire Powers, 66, a registered independent in Scottsdale. “It’s not that I want to throw all the Republicans out, but him, I’ve got no use for.”
Joanna Albertson feels similarly conflicted. A teacher and a registered independent in Pima County, she has yet to decide which candidate to support this year. She sees a Republican Party that disdains working class Americans, and a Democratic Party that favors abortion rights she opposes.
“I actually left the Republican Party that I had been with since President Reagan because of Trump, and I switched to the Democratic Party. But I’m in disagreement with items on their platform. I only stayed a few months and then I left,” Albertson said. “Even though I find it difficult to support Trump, I find it difficult to support Biden.”
Albertson, who voted for a third-party candidate in 2016, said she craves the stability and calm of an earlier era, when politics did not feel so all-consuming and tense.
“I’m inclined now to go with the one who I think may rock the boat the least because we’re already so unsettled. But it’s really hard to figure that out because I think that Trump has rocked the boat so much as president, and I think that Biden would be rocking the boat just because he would be new,” she said. “I think everybody is wondering, ‘How can I vote in this election and feel like I’m doing any good?’ ”
But Trump’s grating personal style has not been enough to turn Connie Holmes against him. A registered Democrat who works as a quality control inspector in Apache Junction, Holmes said she will vote for Trump because of his trade war with China and his effort to restrict illegal immigration.
“Personally, I think he’s an asshole. I would never invite him over for dinner,” Holmes said. “The way he’s running this country and getting the economy back on track, I agree with.”
Margaret Barreto, of Buckeye, doesn’t believe either candidate can deliver on their laundry list of agenda items in such a polarized political environment.
“I think [Trump] is a lot of fun. But being fun doesn’t mean he’s going to accomplish more, because I think he won’t be able to accomplish that much,” Barreto said. “Biden, he’s promising a lot. Many things are good what he’s promising, but I’m not sure he can go through with that.”
Barreto said Biden’s pledge to roll back the Trump tax cuts was disturbing, and that Biden had not been forthcoming about whether he would support expanding the Supreme Court.
“It sounds like he wants to win first before he can tell the whole thing. I want to hear the whole thing now, not after he gets elected,” Barreto said.
Arizonans are enjoying a moment in the political spotlight unlike any they have experienced in a generation; new migrants from northern states and places like California have flocked to the Phoenix area in search of good jobs and cheap housing, fundamentally changing an electorate that has long been dominated by older whites who favor Republicans, Mormon voters who are more evenly divided and urban Latinos who elect Democrats in their districts.
The state has shifted onto the list of battlegrounds in part because of Trump’s own plummeting support among suburban voters, and especially women. Those voters sent Kyrsten Sinema to the Senate in 2018, the first Democrat to represent the state in the upper chamber since Dennis DeConcini retired in 1995.
Eighteen public polls of Arizona voters have been released since Labor Day. Biden has led in all but three — two of which showed narrow Trump leads and another which showed the two men tied.
“It’s fun and exciting. It’s like, ‘Hey, we’re in the news!’ ” Powers said. “I like being a battleground state.”
But for others, the constant barrage of advertisements, political mail, phone calls and door knocks are becoming too much.
“I think they should pass a law that no candidate can ever do the kind of ads that are on television today. They are inflammatory, they do not tell the truth, and they go at personal lives, which I do not approve of,” said Gerard Prior, 67, who recently moved to Tucson from Massachusetts. “If they want to talk about where they stand, fine, but if they can’t stick to just the issues, I really don’t even want to see it on television.”
Prior, a registered Democrat, had been undecided until recently. He and his wife sent in their absentee ballots this week after they decided to back Biden.
But voters said Trump is the candidate weighing most on their minds as they make final decisions.
“I didn’t vote for Trump [in 2016] because I felt his comportment as a person outside of office was beneath the dignity of a human being,” Albertson said. “It makes me very, I’ll just use the word sad.”