The Arizona Republican Party is taking a low-key approach to today’s presidential primary, ceding most of the public attention to the Democrats vying for their party’s nomination.
President Bush’s reelection campaign has held no rallies and few election events since the president’s Jan. 21 visit to Mesa Community College.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry did pass through the Valley on Monday on behalf of his longtime Republican friend. But Perry spoke only to a select group of Hispanic business leaders.
In contrast, Republicans had large public shows last month before party elections in Iowa and New Hampshire, even though Bush has no serious GOP opposition. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., went to New Hampshire the day before that state’s primary and appeared on several national news broadcasts.
The Arizona Republican Party decided not to take part in today’s primary, and will pick national delegates at a convention this spring. But observers said Republican leaders realized they just couldn’t compete right now.
"They are smart enough to know that the media attention is focused on the Democrats," said Bruce Merrill, a political pollster and professor at Arizona State University. "For them to do anything, it would just be like dropping a cup of water in the sand.
"I think any media strategist would tell them, let the Democrats have their hour. Why waste your resources?"
Perry did his best anyway Monday to win new support for Bush as he spoke to about 75 people in downtown Phoenix. Perry said he was first elected to the Texas House of Representatives as a Democrat in 1984, when Bush was the managing partner of the Texas Rangers baseball team.
Bush already had politics on his mind, Perry said, and helped persuade Perry to switch parties.
Perry campaigned as Bush’s running mate in 1998, when Bush was elected to his second and last term as Texas governor. Perry was elevated from lieutenant governor after Bush went to the White House.
Now, U.S. voters should follow Texas’ example and elect Bush to a second term as president, Perry said.
"If there was ever a time that America needs to be together, if there was a time that being together mattered, it is today and in this presidential election," Perry said.