Editorial: Richard Carmona: The purple candidate

Senator contender Richard Carmona has another ace up his sleeve. It’s the Big Mac president, the saxophone president and the president who may or may not have had sexual relations with a White House intern.

It’s Bill Clinton, the president who certainly didn’t inhale.

Clinton still receives requests from foreign diplomats to consult in international crises. Carmona, a former surgeon general under President Bush, was handpicked by President Barack Obama. Clinton volunteered his endorsement for Carmona in his tight race against Republican Jeff Flake.

Clinton’s appearance in a state as red as Arizona raises a curious question: Can Arizona lose its conservative colors?

Perhaps the answer lies within Carmona’s political timeline.

The former surgeon general was appointed by former Republican President George W. Bush. In 2006, Arizona Republicans saw Carmona as a hopeful candidate to challenge then Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano.  In November 2011, an Independent-registered Carmona sought the Democratic Party nomination for Senator. In August, members of Barry Goldwater’s family, Ty, Joanne and Goldwater’s granddaughter, CC, added their names to Carmona’s long list of bipartisan support.

Carmona’s political career was founded by conservative roots and is culminating in a pursuit for Democratic senator. His long list of Republican endorsements suggests he is a hybrid of the two political parties and his victory could symbolize Arizona’s merging political ideologies. His story is not just a rags-to-riches story, but a red-to-purple story.

Thus, Carmona himself is a prime example of the possible purple transition Arizona might experience in upcoming years. A Time magazine article in April called the Latino vote the presidential election’s determining factor in states like Nevada, Colorado, Florida and Arizona. It was Latinos who helped turn California from a purple to a blue state in 1994 and it could be Latinos who turn Arizona into a purple state in 2012. Cronkite News Service reaffirms that there is a “continued blue trend” among Latinos, who aligned with Republicans ideologically until 2010.

Not every politician has the ability to effectively endorse a political candidate. Clinton has been the only president to win the Grand Canyon State since 1952. Voters who don’t otherwise acquaint themselves with state politics will surely recognize Clinton’s name and the principles for which he stands. The former president’s support will yank liberal voters out of the woodwork and situate them into a new political landscape in which their loyalty will be of supreme importance.

Clinton’s presence will re-energize the Democratic, and perhaps even Independent, base in Arizona and reawaken the liberal voters who feel overshadowed by the state’s notorious conservative-based policies. Clinton’s appearance at ASU has a two-fold significance. For one, Clinton is lending his democratic cred to a state that no one thought had any. Second, Carmona’s willingness to ride Clinton’s coattails speaks to his faith in Arizona’s liberal base. Arizona might be ready to take a more democratic turn, if it’s willing to embrace such a national, democratic rock star like Clinton.


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