In Arizona, Democrats Bet On an Action Hero

After Carmona left the Bush administration, he accused the administration's political appointees of stifling science in the health sphere. He testified before a congressional committee that officials had delayed and watered down a report on second-hand smoke and forbidden him from speaking about or releasing reports on stem cells, the morning-after pill and sex education. And officials had advised him against attending the Special Olympics, Carmona said, because of the organization's ties to the Kennedy family.

Nonetheless, Carmona says he's maintained good relationships with Republicans since then; his testimony wasn't about payback, he says, it was about answering the questions asked of him. He notes that he sought counsel from senior GOP senators before entering the 2012 race.

With former Democratic state party Chairman Don Bivens angling for his party's nomination, Obama called Carmona to recruit him, after both Republicans and Democrats had sought him as a candidate in previous years.

"We had a nice conversation," Carmona said told ABC News, "and he did urge me to consider running, because he felt that we needed new blood in Washington."

The candidate said he also spoke to two former Republican presidents before deciding to enter the race, declining to name names. (The only two living former GOP presidents are George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.)


A Long Shot for Democrats

Of course, that swashbuckling history doesn't change Arizona's conservative leanings--and the polling for Carmona does not look good.

If voters had to choose today between Carmona and the Republican, Flake, they would elect Flake by a margin of 42 percent to 29 percent, according to an NBC/Marist poll released this week.

Arizona is one of the redder states, with Republicans holding the legislature, the governor's mansion, both Senate seats and five of eight House seats. The same NBC/Marist poll showed Arizonans disapproving of Obama 51 percent to 39 percent.

And there's no guarantee Carmona will be the Democrats' nominee. Bivens has raised more money overall, but Carmona pulled in more than $550,000 in a month and a half of campaigning--more than twice what Bivens raised in the entire fourth quarter of 2011.

But the war chest of the more experienced Flake dwarfs both Democratic candidates. He is able to use the money he's raised over multiple reelection bids in his safe House district, and he now has over $2.5 million in the bank.

However, Democrats are optimistic for two reasons. One of them has to do with Flake, who has never run a statewide race and whose conservative, anti-spending platform has worked well through five reelection terms in his conservative House district south and east of Phoenix. But that platform may not hold up across the entire state.

The other has to do with immigration.


Same Old Immigration Fight ... With a Twist

Ever since Gov. Jan Brewer signed the infamous Arizona immigration law, SB 1070, the issue has dominated Arizona politics. Democrats think that could be a boon, helping them motivate the law's opponents to volunteer and vote.

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