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Arizona Evolves Into Battleground in Fight for House Control

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Barber is still waiting to see whether he will return to Congress next year. Ballots in the 2nd District are still being counted.

McLeod, a New York state transplant, was one of the busiest operatives in the cycle, having worked for Richard Carmona’s Senate bid, as well as the Sinema and Barber campaigns.

“Campaigns matter. Individual candidates matter. Campaigns make a difference,” he said. “If you’re an interesting person and you run a good campaign, you can win.”

President Barack Obama did not perform as well in Arizona this year as he did in 2008, when he faced native son Republican Sen. John McCain. Despite that, there are many predictions that Arizona will shift into the competitive presidential category in cycles to come. If that happens, the repercussions extend beyond the usual coattail calculations.

The Phoenix media market was saturated in 2012, even without presidential ads. Two of the competitive House races are covered by the market. Throw in hypothetical competitive Senate and presidential races in 2016 and Phoenix could rival Cleveland and Orlando, Fla., in election-year TV ad rates.

Any candidate who wants to run for office in the Phoenix market will have to know how to raise money, and the national parties will have to be prepared to spend heavily.

It only illustrates the complex nature of Arizona politics that Obama could lose the state by about 10 points while Democrats are postured to take control of Arizona’s House delegation if Barber wins. If he loses, Republicans will be one for three in competitive races in the state this year.

Barber won a June special election to replace his former boss, former Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. But on last week’s ballot, he faced a stronger nominee in McSally, a retired Air Force colonel.

“Martha McSally has overcome obstacles and exceeded expectations her entire career, and that extended to this campaign,” the national GOP operative said. “No matter the outcome of this race, she’s going to be a major force in Arizona politics.”

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