Why AP called Arizona for former vice president Joe Biden

The Associated Press has declared Democrat Joe Biden the winner in Arizona, flipping a longtime GOP state that President Donald Trump won in 2016.

The AP called the race at 2:50 a.m. EST Wednesday, after an analysis of ballots cast statewide concluded there were not enough outstanding to allow Trump to catch up.

With 80% of the expected vote counted, Biden was ahead by 5 percentage points, with a roughly 130,000-vote lead over Trump with about 2.6 million ballots counted. The remaining ballots left to be counted, including mail-in votes in Maricopa County, where Biden performed strongly, were not enough for Trump to catch up to the former vice president.

Arizona has a long political history of voting Republican. It’s the home state of Barry Goldwater, a five-term, conservative senator who was the Republican nominee for president in 1964. John McCain, the party’s 2008 presidential nominee, represented the state in Congress from 1983 until his 2018 death.

But changing demographics, including a fast-growing Latino population and a boom of new residents — some fleeing the skyrocketing cost of living in neighboring California — have made the state friendlier to Democrats.

Many of the gains have been driven by the shifting politics of Maricopa County, which is home to Phoenix and its suburbs. That’s where Biden sealed his victory. Maricopa County accounts for 60% of the state’s vote, and Biden ran up huge margins there.


President Donald Trump arrives for a campaign rally at Phoenix Goodyear Airport, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020, in Goodyear, Ariz. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

With President Donald Trump looking on, left, Nigel Farage, a former member of the European Parliament representing the UK and member of the Brexit Party, speaks at a Trump campaign rally at Phoenix Goodyear Airport Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020, in Goodyear, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Supporters of President Donald Trump applaud as he speaks at a campaign rally at Phoenix Goodyear Airport Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020, in Goodyear, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

A supporter of President Donald Trump shouts as Trump speaks at a campaign rally at Phoenix Goodyear Airport Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020, in Goodyear, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

President Donald Trump arrives on Air Force One for a campaign rally at Phoenix Goodyear Airport Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020, in Goodyear, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

GOODYEAR, ARIZONA – OCTOBER 28: Jason Ingram of Glenville, Arizona, wears a Donald Trump mask with his daughter Leanna, 5, on his shoulders at the conclusion of a campaign rally with the president at Phoenix Goodyear Airport October 28, 2020 in Goodyear, Arizona. With less than a week until Election Day, Trump and his opponent, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, are campaigning across the country. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

US President Donald Trump speaks during a Make America Great Again rally at Phoenix Goodyear Airport October 28, 2020, in Goodyear, Arizona. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

People watch a video with former US Vice President Joe Biden on screen during a rally with US President Donald Trump at Phoenix Goodyear Airport October 28, 2020, in Goodyear, Arizona. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

BULLHEAD CITY, ARIZONA – OCTOBER 28: U.S. President Donald Trump arrives at a campaign rally aboard Air Force One on October 28, 2020 in Bullhead City, Arizona. With less than a week until Election Day, Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, are campaigning across the country. (Photo by Isaac Brekken/Getty Images)

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In 2016, Trump carried the county by 4 percentage points, which helped propel him to a win. But two years later, Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema flipped the seat from Republican control by winning the county by 5 points.

When the AP called the race for Biden, he was leading there by 9 percentage points.

Biden flipping Arizona is a sign of Democrats’ ascendant influence in the state.

In 2018, Sinema became the first Democrat in three decades to win a U.S. Senate seat in Arizona. Democrats also won three statewide offices and five of nine congressional seats and made gains in the state legislature that year.

In 2016, voters ousted Republican Joe Arpaio, Maricopa County’s hardline sheriff, who built a national profile on his harsh treatment of immigrants.

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