Snapshots: Libertarian could help Clinton win Arizona

If Hillary Clinton carries Arizona in November, there’s a good chance it won’t be because Democrats on their own have flipped a reliable GOP state they hope to win consistently someday.

Instead, Clinton and Democrats may have Gary Johnson to thank.

The Libertarian Party nominee’s best chance to influence the presidential race may come in Arizona, where the former New Mexico governor appeals to a group of finicky conservatives who make up part of the GOP base.

“It could happen,” said GOP Sen. Jeff Flake. “Donald Trump has managed to make this an interesting state in terms of presidential politics, and not in the way that Republicans have wanted.”

Johnson “is an easy out for some people in our party,” Flake told The Associated Press.

About a dozen of the most contested states will help determine which candidate gets the 270 electoral votes to win the presidency. In Arizona, where the Republican nominee has carried the state in 11 of the past 12 presidential elections, Johnson could play the spoiler, potentially putting 11 electoral votes in Clinton’s column.

The GOP’s recent struggle with independent-minded, small-government Libertarians was clear before Trump’s speech Wednesday in Phoenix, when he reaffirmed a hard line on immigration. And his stance could alienate the roughly one-quarter of Hispanic voters in the state who usually align with Republicans.

“I think that right now we’re at a tipping point, where at any moment we are going to begin to see an outpouring of support,” said Latino GOP strategist Juan Hernandez, who works for Johnson in Arizona.

Insiders lead Trump transition team

Donald Trump is pledging that the government he appoints will bring sweeping change to Washington’s culture. So far, that promise comes with a heavy New Jersey accent.

Despite being passed over for the job of Trump’s running mate, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and an entourage of his closest allies could leave a lasting mark on a Trump administration, should he win in November.

As chairman of Trump’s transition team, Christie is building a coalition of advisers who will staff key federal government agencies and execute new policy prescriptions if Trump wins the general election. Among them, are two of his longtime aides, Rich Bagger, a lobbyist who helped lead Christie’s gubernatorial transition team and Bill Palatucci, a top Christie adviser whose law firm has been showered with government legal work.

“The chairman is the public face, sets the tone and ensures the transition has good connectivity with the candidate,” said Clay Johnson, who served as executive director of George W. Bush’s transition team in 2000.

The team also includes Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner — a New Jersey native — along with some experienced government officials such as Jaime Burke, who was the personnel director for the Romney transition team in 2012 and a White House liaison to Health and Human Services under George W. Bush.

Presidential transition teams lay the groundwork early since the winner is ultimately faced with the daunting task of readying the new administration in the two and a half months between Election Day and the inauguration.