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Democrats End Nearly 50-Year Drought, Capture Arizona

November 6, 1996

PHOENIX (AP) _ Bill Clinton became the first Democratic presidential candidate to carry Arizona since Harry Truman in 1948, leading a Republican elder to call the president ``the best politician ... that’s ever held the White House.″

With 61 percent of precincts reporting, Clinton had 415,658 votes, or 47 percent, to Dole’s 404,516 votes, or 45 percent. But relatively few votes had been counted in areas that traditionally lean Democrat.

``This is a mainstream, moderate state and country, and Bill Clinton is a more moderate leader than anyone the Republican Party has,″ said Sam Coppersmith, chairman of the state Democratic Party.

Registered Republicans Keith and Ruth Coester abandoned Dole to vote for Clinton.

``I labeled him a long time ago _ Droll Dole. With all this politics, their personality hurts them more than anything else. Clinton’s had more glamour _ and things are going pretty good,″ Keith Coester said.

Clinton won big among moderates and independents, according to an exit poll.

Self-described moderates, who represented 45 percent of voters, went for Clinton over Dole 2-to-1. Dole was supported by 73 percent of conservatives; the same percentage of liberals went for Clinton.

Clinton also appeared to be aided by satisfaction with the economy. He was favored better than 2-to-1 among the 33 percent of voters surveyed who said their families’ finances improved over the past four years. In 1992, when Clinton narrowly lost Arizona, only 26 percent said their situations were improved.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said it would have been tough for any Republican to beat Clinton.

``I’m going to say, `Bob, you fought the good fight. There’s a good economy, the best politician probably that’s ever held the White House is there. You did the right thing and God bless you and thank you for serving our country so well,′ ″ McCain said.

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