President Obama and former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) aren’t on the ballot in Tuesday’s special election, but the two have become central figures in the fight for control of the southern Arizona district. From the start of the race, Republicans attempted to make the contest about Obama and Democrat Ron Barber’s support for the president and his policies. But in recent weeks, as the national fight between the two parties has escalated, the race has taken on a larger significance for both.
Limping out of a brutal two weeks for Democrats punctuated by a damaging jobs report, a major loss in Wisconsin and a gaffe by Obama, Democrats are eager for a win in a nationally watched contest to stop the bleeding and demonstrate that momentum is still on their side.
But for voters in Tucson, Ariz., the contest between Barber and Republican Jesse Kelly to finish the rest of Giffords’s term evokes memories of the assassination attempt in January 2011 that killed six people, critically wounded Giffords and left much of the community traumatized. Both sides have anticipated the race will be extremely tight, and neither campaign was willing to predict victory on Monday.