In case there was any doubt what Arizona voters thought about the respective reactions of Barack Obama and Sarah Palin to last month's shooting consider this: Obama leads Palin by 8 points in a hypothetical contest in the state that's only fallen into the Democratic column for President one time since 1948.
A majority of voters still disapprove of the job Obama is doing there with 45% giving him good marks and 51% expressing unhappiness with his performance. But they don't dislike him nearly as much as they do Palin. 57% have an unfavorable opinion of her to only 39% who rate her positively. Her numbers with independents are even worse than her overall ones as 67% of them say they don't like her while only 32% give her good reviews.
If the Republican nominee is someone other than Palin Obama would still have a better chance at winning the state than his party has had since the 90s, but he would start out at a disadvantage against either Mitt Romney or Mike Huckabee. Romney is the strongest of the Republicans, leading Obama by a 49-43 margin. That six point spread is closer than what the state saw in 2004 or 2008 and comparable to George W. Bush's margin of victory over Al Gore there in 2000, the last time the state was remotely competitive. Obama comes a little bit closer against Huckabee, trailing by a 48-44 spread.
Obama's basic problem in Arizona, in contrast to states in the region like New Mexico, Nevada, and Colorado where his party has made serious strides, is that it remains a place where the plurality of voters define themselves as Republicans. That means for Obama to take the state he needs to rack up a huge lead with independents and/or win over a good number of GOP voters.
He doesn't do either of those things to the extent he needs to in match ups against Huckabee and Romney. He gets just 7% of Republicans against Huckabee while losing 13% of Democrats, so even though he does have a 7 point lead with independents that's not enough. And against Romney he loses 16% of Democrats while picking up just 9% of Republicans and tying with independents. His formula for winning Arizona is getting about 15% of the GOP voter and winning independents by 10 and right now he's not there against Huckabee and Romney.
The long term demographic trends in the state have Arizona moving into the blue column just like many of its neighbors, but it might be a little longer than next year before that happens- unless Republicans hand Obama the gift of running against Palin.
Full results here