Cooper Suggests GOP's 'Hard-Line' on Immigration Could Win Arizona for Obama

New York Times reporter Helene Cooper spread pro-Democratic optimism in Arizona, a state Barack Obama wsan't competitive in in 2008, in Friday's 'Arizona Sees a Boom In Voting-Age Hispanics – Democrats Sense Opportunity for Obama.'

Republicans in the State Legislature here push a law that would require President Obama to provide his long-form birth certificate in order to get on the Arizona presidential ballot in 2012. The governor uses Facebook to denounce the president's 'backdoor amnesty plan.' Cars traveling on State Route 260 are treated to a giant billboard bearing Mr. Obama's mug on a mock $100 trillion bill that asks, 'But Who Will Pay the Piper?'

Given the openly hostile environment, Mr. Obama would seem to have little chance of winning Arizona's 11 electoral votes in 2012 or even the incentive to take much of an effort here. But the state's crackdown on illegal immigration has coincided with a boom in its Hispanic population, now nearly a third of the state's residents.

That has created what Obama strategists and some residents see as a surprising opportunity to compete in a Republican state that was off the map for Mr. Obama in 2008, when it was the home of his opponent, Senator John McCain. The sense has been reinforced by the hard-line stance that most of the Republican presidential field has taken on immigration and the party reaction against Newt Gingrich's recent call for a 'humane' policy on the issue.

Once again, the Times is waiting for the "sleeping giant" of Hispanic voters to come through for Democrats.

The voting-age population of Hispanics in Arizona has surged over the last nine years to 845,000 from 455,000 and now constitutes 19 percent of Arizona residents of voting age. Though Hispanics have not turned out at high levels in past years, Democratic activists and Obama campaign officials believe that this year could be different, especially after Hispanic voters flexed their expanding muscle in recent local elections, including one this month that recalled a Republican state senator, Russell Pearce, the architect of the state's tough immigration law.

Only in paragraph 13 did Cooper cop to a bit of reality:

Campaign experts still consider Arizona a long shot for Mr. Obama. If the election were held today, 'Obama would lose handily,' said Bruce Merrill, a professor emeritus at Arizona State University. But, Mr. Merrill added, 'there are some things going on here that could be more favorable a year from now for Obama.'

Among the factors working against the president in Arizona is the housing bust, which has hurt Arizona more than most other places. About half of the homeowners with mortgages in the state owe more than their houses are worth, and the same is true of about 60 percent of commercial properties with mortgages. Arizona is not the only place where Mr. Obama is hoping to take advantage of demographic changes. Although Mr. Obama's support among blue-collar white voters has been weakening, and his prospects in traditional presidential bellwethers like Ohio and other industrial states are shaky, the campaign is trying to shore up an alternative Western strategy that expands the electoral map.

Mr. Meza said Latinos in Arizona were worried that the state had moved too far to the right on the political spectrum. 'People feel that if it goes any further, they will be even more scapegoated,' he said.

Such sentiments are helping to motivate residents like Raquel Contreras, a 19-year-old Mexican-American sophomore at Arizona State University, who was working the phones one recent night to drum up support for Mr. Obama's re-election campaign.

A photo of a beaming Contreras, with a photo of Obama on the back of a clipboard, dominated the story.