By Jim EllisOct. 12, 2018 — A new OH Predictive Insights survey for ABC News 15 in Phoenix (Oct. 1-2; 600 likely Arizona voters) brings new information about the open Arizona Senate race. According to the ballot test results, Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson) has overcome Rep. Kyrsten Sinema’s (D-Phoenix) consistent small lead in the battle to replace retiring Sen. Jeff Flake (R) and claims a six-point advantage, 47-41 percent.
Though this is the first time that Rep. McSally has scored a lead beyond the polling margin of error, the new result is plausible.
For several weeks, surveys have projected that Gov. Doug Ducey (R) is expanding his small advantage over Arizona State University professor and Democratic gubernatorial nominee David Garcia into a double-digit lead, but the same polls continued to forecast Rep. Sinema with a tight edge in the Senate race. It seemed only a matter of time before the act of Ducey cementing his margin would begin to help McSally.Secondly, McSally, a retired Air Force colonel and the first woman to fly a combat mission and command a flight squadron, has been hitting Sinema over her role as a war protester prior to the latter woman being elected to the state legislature. The contrast is a compelling one and should play to McSally’s favor. Arizona may be more politically competitive that in past years, but Republicans still maintain a statewide advantage here. Additionally, the death of Arizona Sen. John McCain brings greater attention to those engaged in military careers, thus further helping McSally.
An outside conservative organization then began attacking Sinema over legislation she drafted while in the legislature that made it more difficult to charge individuals in child prostitution cases. Sinema’s argument was that men should not be held totally responsible for engaging in such a crime if the prostitute in question is made to look much older than her true age. This attack appears relatively weak and may miss the mark, but it adds to the multi-pronged strategy to cast Rep. Sinema in a negative light.
For her part, Sinema countered with more positive ads and saw the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and EMILY’s List come into the race to levy negative attacks against Rep. McSally. The DSCC is running a version of the healthcare/pre-existing condition/elimination of Medicare ad that they are using around the country. EMILY’s List is using a different mode of attack, venturing into the healthcare debate but applying it to Hispanic children, in Spanish, in the Phoenix and Tucson media markets.
Returning to the polling analysis, this is the second time that OH Predictive Insights has projected McSally with a lead. Their first such poll came in early September (Sept. 5-6; 597 likely Arizona voters) when they found the Republican to be holding a smaller 49-46 percent advantage. Simultaneously, Gravis Marketing (Sept. 5-7; 882 likely Arizona voters) also saw the Tucson representative forging ahead, 49-48 percent. The July OH Predictive survey found Sinema holding a 48-44 percent edge.
Between the time McSally was first detected as holding the edge (early September) and today, seven pollsters have surveyed the Arizona Senate campaign and all posted Rep. Sinema to a positive margin of between three and seven points, though five of the studies projected leads of three points or less.
Vox Populi, polling in the same period as OH Predictive (Sept. 29-Oct. 2; 702 likely Arizona voters) also forecasts McSally to be ahead in the race, 45-42 percent, with Republicans up on the generic ballot test, 51-49 percent, when all leaners are calculated. This helps provide support that the OH Predictive numbers are in the reliability realm despite arriving at a different conclusion than other recent pollsters.
Fox News and YouGov were also in the field during this early October time period and both still project Rep. Sinema continuing to hold her typical small edge. Fox (Sept. 29-Oct. 2; 716 likely Arizona voters) and YouGov (Oct. 2-5; 898 likely Arizona voters) each sees Sinema capturing 47 percent support, with McSally trailing at 45 and 44 percent, respectively.
This race continues to be close and will go down to the wire. In order to win, Rep. McSally must continue to find ways of going on the offensive with an effort of drawing a clear contrast between the two candidates. Rep. Sinema must continue her campaign strategy of attempting to nationalize and personalize the race with additionally pushing her theme of serving her current local constituents.