By Jim Ellis
Oct. 4, 2021 — The Cornhusker State of Nebraska has joined Oregon and Colorado in completing its redistricting process as Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) late last week signed into law the new three-district congressional map.
The new map is similar to the previous plan. It slightly improves Rep. Don Bacon’s (R-Papillon/Omaha) 2nd District while keeping the Omaha metro area together as a complete unit. The 2nd will remain competitive, though Rep. Bacon will be in stronger position to seek a fourth term. He was re-elected last November with a 51-46 percent margin in defeating Democrat Kara Eastman for the second time and defending himself against a $4.5 million opposition campaign.
Rep. Adrian Smith’s (R-Gering) 3rd District again stretches the width of the state, from Colorado and Wyoming all the way to Iowa and the northwestern corner of Missouri. This time the 3rd even goes so far as to border Omaha’s Douglas County.
It is likely the new Nebraska map will continue to send three Republicans to the House, though Democrats will undoubtedly return to target Rep. Bacon in District 2.
Phoenix-based OH Predictive Insights tested the Arizona electorate as they regularly do (released Sept. 29 & Sept. 7-12; 882 registered Arizona voters, online opt-in panel) and finds freshman Sen. Mark Kelly (D) leading all potential Republican general election opponents, but with percentages well below majority support in all tested instances.
As you will remember, Sen. Kelly, after a difficult and expensive 2020 campaign in which he raised an incredible $101 million to defeat appointed Martha McSally (R), won the special election, 51-49 percent, to fill the remainder of the late Sen. John McCain’s (R) final term. He now returns to the campaign trail in order to win a full six-year term in 2022.
At this point, Attorney General Mark Brnovich, venture capitalist Blake Masters, solar energy company Jim Lamon, and retired Arizona National Guard Adjutant General Mick McGuire comprise the top tier of the Republican field. OHPI tested each man individually opposite Sen. Kelly.
In all instances, Sen. Kelly posts either 43 or 44 percent support. His closest rival, not surprisingly, is the better known AG Brnovich, who has won two statewide elections and is ineligible to seek a third term in his current position. The margin between the two men is only four percentage points, with the senator leading 43-39 percent.
Kelly does best against Masters, who will likely benefit from a major Super PAC funded by his business and political ally, Peter Thiel. Masters drops to a 44-35 percent deficit, but even here Sen. Kelly fails to even closely reach the 50 percent plateau. Gen. McGuire and Lamon each lag behind in seven-point margins.
The good news for Sen. Kelly is that he leads all of his potential Republican opponents, but the bad news is his support factor is relatively low for a new incumbent and remains virtually constant regardless of his opposition.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the poll is the favorability ratings, section because OHPI compares Sen. Kelly’s numbers to those of his Senate seat mate, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D). She has, of course, been attracting heavy attention in thwarting the Democrats’ efforts to eliminate the filibuster while failing to yet support the Biden-Schumer-Pelosi infrastructure package.
Sen. Kelly scores an overall 47:43 percent favorable to unfavorable personal favorability rating, low for an incumbent just nine months into his new position. Sen. Sinema posts a slightly better 46:39 percent mark, this while the national and state media attempt to paint her as a controversial figure.
Kelly reaches an 80 percent favorability mark among Democrats, which is not surprising, as is his low 20 percent positive mark among Republicans. In the all-important Independent category, the senator sees basically an even split, 43:42 percent, again disappointing for a short-term incumbent.
Sen. Sinema records a 56:30 percent ratio among Democrats, which is very low but not surprising considering she is bucking the national party leadership; but she also finds 40 percent of Republicans viewing her favorably (vs. 48 percent negative), which is very high. In the swing Independent category, Sen. Sinema posts a 42:38 percent positive score.
As time moves on, we may see Sen. Kelly’s favorability index tighten even further as the slings and arrows of the next campaign begin flying in earnest.
The early numbers suggest that Arizona will again become a political battlefield in 2022. With Republicans having few vulnerable Democrats to target, the Grand Canyon State is featured on their top-tier target list and be one of four Democratic seats to remain in competitive mode throughout the election cycle.