|Courtesy the Daily Courier|
The latest GOP presidential candidate debate visits Arizona on Wednesday, and is a critical appearance in more ways than one.
Forecasters are wondering if the Arizona debate - the 20th such joint appearance by Republican contenders since this past May - will actually be the last. Specific states from this point on impact specific candidates, meaning they likely won't be as willing to visit the same locations at the same time as primary races tighten. That makes the voices heard on Wednesday in the Valley important enough for all voters, GOP and Democratic alike.
Also, given Arizona's political climate, immigration is sure to be a major point of emphasis. And the GOP's illegal immigration platform is fragile since last week's news about rising star, and Pinal County Sheriff, Paul Babeu, who has vowed to continue campaigning for a seat in Arizona's rural western 4th Congressional District, which includes Prescott. The sheriff, known for his tough stances on illegal immigration, faces accusations that he threatened to deport a Mexican former lover based on their relationship status. Babeu disputes the claim.
However, the political damage remains as Wednesday's debate nears. If the charges hold up, how are immigration deportation numbers and policies, at least in Pinal County, to be trusted? If the charges are bogus, why would a nominee like Romney, who previously enlisted the help of Babeu for his campaign, distance himself from a sheriff whose immigration record was previously celebrated?
And, of course, there's the economy. The backdrop of Arizona's status as one of the state's hit hardest by the housing crash isn't lost on anyone. Since 2007, 250,000 Arizona homes have been lost to foreclosure, and more than half of homeowners here owe more on their homes than they are worth. Residents from other states who will be tuning in Wednesday share similar struggles, and will want to hear specific plans for correcting those trends; not fatigued blame and finger pointing.
Perhaps the last GOP debate? An immigration platform with unanswered questions about the methodology of one of Arizona's toughest sheriffs? The fact that Wednesday's debate is in Mesa, where, according to one real estate source on Monday, shows more than half the homes listed for sale there are in foreclosure?
Clear and direct answers to these issues have no better home than Arizona on Wednesday.