WASHINGTON — Arizona has voted for only one Democratic presidential candidate in 60 years, but Vice President Joe Biden sounded a confident note in the state Thursday, telling a crowd at a fundraising event in Phoenix there was a chance to turn the state blue in November.
"We think we have a real shot at winning the presidential race here in Arizona," Biden said at the event, which was part of a West Coast campaign swing for the vice president.
Biden added the re-election campaign of President Barack Obama was actively working to generate support in the state.
"You're going to see organizers here," Biden said.
Biden's stop in Arizona comes just a day ahead of a visit to the state from all-but-certain GOP nominee Mitt Romney. The former Massachusetts governor will drop by the meeting of the Republican National Committee, taking place in Scottsdale and will address state Republican Party chairmen at a luncheon Friday.
Arizona has consistently voted Republican for decades, with the single Democratic win coming in 1996 for Bill Clinton. In 2008, Obama made an effort to win Arizona, despite being pitted against a longtime senator from the state, John McCain. Obama eventually lost to McCain by an 8-point margin. Since then, however, Latinos have grown in population, boosting Democrats' confidence in winning Arizona. Latinos made up 16% of the electorate in 2008, which was an increase from four years earlier.
Democrats see Latinos as an important voting bloc in Arizona/ Obama won the demographic by 15 percentage points in 2008, 56% to 41%.
Despite the confidence, Democrats' efforts in Arizona were labeled a "mirage" by RNC Chairman Reince Priebus on a conference call Monday, during which he unveiled a new attempt by Republicans to court Hispanic voters.
"The Obama team is setting up a mirage that somehow Arizona is going to be an Obama state or in play," Priebus said on the conference call. "It's a Republican state, it's a red state. We're going to be there, obviously it's not going to be ignored at all, but to put it in the category of a targeted or battleground state is a mindset that we're not adhering to right now."