By Jim Ellis
Sept. 15, 2017 — GBA Strategies, polling for the Democratic leadership’s Senate Majority PAC (Aug. 30-Sept. 7; 600 likely Arizona general election voters and 500 Arizona Republican primary voters), just produced stunningly poor numbers for first-term Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake (R) from their new Grand Canyon State survey.
What makes matters even worse for the senator is that the 27-point deficit referenced in the title is from the Republican primary voter sample segment. The GBA ballot test finds former state Sen. Kelli Ward, who held Sen. John McCain to a 51-40 percent re-nomination victory in 2016, leading Flake by an incredible 58-31 percent margin. While other polls have found Flake in difficult political shape within his own Republican Party base, almost exclusively attributable to his national public feud with President Trump, none have detected anything close to this spread.
On the other hand, GBA is a Democratic pollster and not known for testing a Republican primary sample. Therefore, doubt exists regarding this survey’s reliability because the pollsters may not have the necessary experience to understand the nuances within this particular voter segment. But, the margin is so large that few if any findings exist to conclude anything other than Flake is today likely trailing badly in the fledgling Republican primary contest.
The other results don’t give the Flake team much reason for optimism, either. Among Republicans, his personal favorability is a poor 25:56 percent while his job approval ratio is a slightly better, but still an abysmal 34:58 percent positive to negative. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is in even worse shape within the party base. Only 17 percent rate Sen. McConnell in a favorable light, with 42 percent of Republicans expressing disapproval of the national party leader. But, that is of little solace to Sen. Flake since McConnell doesn’t face the Arizona electorate.
Curiously, GBA apparently didn’t test President Trump within the voter base. Or, if they did, the numbers were not publicized within the polling prospectus. Either way, the lack of Trump data is a surprising development considering it is Sen. Flake’s relationship with the president that is causing the preponderance of his political base problems.
Among general election voters, Sen. Flake is in better position but still trails his only prospective Democratic rival purportedly tested. Paired with Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix), Sen. Flake would trail 40-47 percent.
Interestingly, Flake’s job approval rating before the electorate as a whole is actually better than within his own party. When adding Democrats and Independents to the sampling mix in order to compliment the Republicans, the senator’s job approval index improves to 38:50 percent favorable to unfavorable.
Sen. Flake has a full year before the Republican primary (Aug. 28, 2018) to rectify his position and make known his case to the base Republican electorate. He will certainly have much more in the way of resources to communicate than his current opponent. It remains to be seen, however, if this string of poor polling numbers encourages a stronger Republican to enter the race.
It is clear, however, that the senator is going to need a public fence-mending with President Trump if he is to right his political ship. With former Trump advisor Steve Bannon now a political free agent again and rattling his sabre about spending heavily against anti-Trump Republicans largely through the Great America Alliance organization, it may behoove the senator to move toward improving relations with the White House and doing so with urgency.