Sheriff Joe Arpaio knows how to get headlines, that much is clear, but based on a Joe Hagan's Rolling Stone profile of the Maricopa County, Arizona, lawman, posted on Thursday, it appears Arpaio's knack for controversy-fueled coverage is starting to erode his actual political influence. That both Rolling Stone and The New York Times posted profiles of the sheriff within hours of each other demonstrates Arpaio's welcoming attitude toward reporters. Both profiles feature Arpaio bragging about his omnipresence in the press, and both point to the legal troubles he's incurred by his headline-grabbing stunts, like his re-heated birtherism and forcing inmates to wear pink socks and underwear.
Rolling Stone's Hagan makes the point that, beyond putting himself at risk of legal fallout from the Justice Department and a federal civil action, Arpaio's headline-mongering has cost him credibility as a lawman, and therefore political clout. While focusing its energy on busting illegal immigrants, Arpaio's office has let other crimes go unsolved, including 400 sex crimes in Maricopa county from 2005 to 2007. Hagan writes:
But as his police powers ebb, so does his influence as a political player on the national stage – the spotlight Arpaio most covets. Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee for president, has yet to appear with Arpaio this year or to ask for his endorsement, as he did back in 2008. "He forgot who I was," complains Arpaio. "When he came to town, he never invited me to his function this time around." That's because Arizona, long a GOP stronghold, could be up for grabs this fall, thanks to the rapidly growing, and increasingly empowered, Latino population. The conventional wisdom is that Romney will need at least 40 percent of the Latino vote to win key battleground states – meaning he can ill afford to antagonize Hispanic voters by cozying up to Joe Arpaio.
The story's worth a read, in full, over at Rolling Stone.