One of the most important races for 2022 – and whether or not there will be a fair count of the 2024 Presidential election – is the Arizona Governor’s race. Democrats are panicking over the prospects of Katie Hobbs picking up the Governorship of this all-important swing state against a Donald Trump-endorsed TV host turned 2020 election denier. This all-important race will have national consequences, and it’s one you can legally bet on the outcome with PredictIt.
Arizona Governor Odds: Katie Hobbs (D) vs. Kari Lake (R)
Because of the national trend of Donald Trump having had leads in most of the key swing states in 2020 before mail ballots were counted – the method of voting used by the most COVID-cautious, who logically voted Democratic overwhelmingly at the time – the wave of election denialism has hit state Republican Parties everywhere.
Does the fact that Democrats actually had the lead at every single stage of the Arizona count change this fact? No, because the crusade of election trutherism doesn’t actually care about facts, but it hasn’t stopped the Arizona GOP going down culs-de-sac of election lies to deflect the fact that the state flipped blue.
This year, with incumbent Governor Doug Ducey term-limited, the GOP nominated Kari Lake, a well known local news anchor whose commitment to understanding how elections in her state are actually conducted is limited, to go up against Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs.
Hobbs became a Democratic cause celebre when she spent all of election week in 2020 on cable news explaining the counting process in her authority as the chief elections officer in Arizona, and as the only statewide Democrat elected in 2018 other than Kyrsten Sinema.
Her candidacy was the only assumed outcome for months, and given her establishment support, became the nominee with only nominal primary opposition.
Hobbs Ducking Debates?
Hobbs’ candidacy could best be described as lethargic – it’s one of the most low-key campaigns in a long time, seemingly premised on the idea that Lake’s willingness to say crazy and crazier things will do the job of having to actually articulate a vision for Arizona itself.
Hobbs has, seemingly purposefully, tried to keep national oxygen out of this race, thinking (perhaps correctly) that if Arizona becomes a referendum on National Democrats and Joe Biden that she can’t win, but she can win if the election is about how Kari Lake is crazy.
This strategy has led to some panic about her chances, especially with Hobbs deciding not to take part in a debate against Lake – which some have described as a sign of weakness, and led to a continuation of the argument that Hobbs is going to lose.
Plainly, whether this is correct or not is irrelevant, but Hobbs thinks that she’s ahead, and therefore that a debate – which only serves to increase variance – hurts her much more than it helps her. Candidates who are losing want a lot of debates, because anything that can provide a chance at a shakeup to the campaign’s status quo helps underdogs.
Hobbs’ strategy – again, whatever you think of the merits of it – is that Lake is self-evidently unfit to do the job and that Hobbs’ quiet competence will be worth more than Lake’s bombast and nonsense.
The counterpoint to that is that Democrats and left wingers globally have made that exact same argument before and gotten shocked by the outcome.
In 2016, Democrats took for granted that Hillary couldn’t lose because Trump was such a buffoon that he’d obviously be rejected by the American people, and many on the British center and left made the exact same argument about Boris Johnson in 2019. In both cases, the supposedly unelectable candidate won.
In Arizona, the GOP tend to do better in races for state office, as pro-choice, socially liberal, wealthy voters tend to vote for Republicans to keep low taxes and small state governments, while being willing to vote for Democrats for Senate and President.
This is why Doug Ducey won handily in 2018 while Sinema won her Senate seat, and why Blake Masters is down so much more against Mark Kelly this year than Lake is against Hobbs.
Throw in the fact that Arizona still voted 4% right of the nation in 2020, and it’s not likely to be a D+4 environment again, and the case for Lake is fairly strong – and much stronger than the Hobbs campaign is telegraphing they think it is.
More political odds coverage and analysis from Evan Scrimshaw
The problem with all of this is that it also ignores the biggest problem for Republicans in Arizona – abortion, and the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs.
Arizona is a state with a restrictive abortion framework in a state that is 63% pro-choice, per the 2020 AP Votecast. Lake has referred to abortion as the “ultimate sin”, and refuses to say that she wouldn’t push to enforce the state’s on the books full abortion ban.
Katie Hobbs, on the other hand, has the easy hand on this issue, with her views on the issue having majority support and the issue being a huge motivator for women in the state.
We know from the Kansas referendum that women whose rights are under threat have been some of the most active in registering to vote and then voting, and given that Arizona has a more pro-choice electorate and is a more Democratic state, abortion helps Democrats politically.
With inflation falling in salience at this point and Arizona being a state where abortion rights are under severe threat, Hobbs is going to have the issues on the table to make a compelling run to November with a message that, as a female candidate, she should be well suited to run on.
Hobbs has a lead in the polls right now, even if she’s down in a Trafalgar poll recently, and for whatever the polls are worth in the Midwest, generally speaking Arizona polls are pretty good, and don’t have systemic bias in the same way.
With Mark Kelly clearly favoured over Blake Masters in the Senate race, Republicans are going to need suburbanites who support Kelly and abortion rights to cross over and vote for Lake – which would be more likely if Lake wasn’t a pro-life election denier.
That Lake has a decent chance of winning is undeniable, and Democrats who were overconfident about this race never should have believed it would be easy to win, but some of that overconfident is now leading to an overcorrection in the market price.
Katie Hobbs isn’t the world’s biggest favorite, but she is favored – and getting someone who, in reality, is a favorite at an underdog price is always a valuable bet.