"You're the problem": Progressives launch another campaign blitz against Sinema

AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana

Alternate headline: Progressives seek to ensure Kyrsten Sinema’s re-election. In fact, one has to wonder whether that’s not the real purpose of a deep-blue campaign against the incumbent senator in barely-purple Arizona. As the Daily Beast reports today, a coalition of progressive minority groups will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to remind voters of just how moderate Sinema has been:

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema is facing a fresh round of attacks from progressives aiming to turn up the pressure on the moderate Democrat back home and push her leftward on their most burning issues.

Just Democracy, a coalition of advocacy groups run by progressive Black and brown organizers, is launching a new six-figure advertising campaign targeting Sinema, hitting cable stations in her home state of Arizona on Wednesday.

The ads, seen first by The Daily Beast, are so blistering that a viewer might momentarily forget that Sinema is not up for re-election until 2024—and that the ads are paid for by Democrats, not Republicans.

In one ad, a man named Tom, identified as a retired Navy veteran, tells Sinema in a direct-to-camera harangue, “you don’t have the political courage to do what’s right for Arizona!”

In another ad, a Phoenix pastor named Reginald Walton says to Sinema from the pews, “since going to Congress, you’ve become the problem.”

Apparently no one told these groups that Arizonans tend to love mavericks. Is that true for Sinema? Coincidentally, we have relatively fresh data on voter support for both Sinema and Mark Kelly in AZ. The progressive campaigns against Sinema appear to have an impact, albeit not exactly what they had hoped.

According to the AZPOP survey, Sinema has an overall favorable rating of 45/45, with most of the responses in the “somewhat” rather than “very” columns in either direction. She drops down to 41/46 in Maricopa, but is at 50/42 in the Pima area and 51/40 everywhere else. Her numbers among Democrats aren’t terribly impressive but they’re still significantly positive at 52/40, but Sinema also gets 46/37 favorability among independents and an eye-popping 38/54 from Republican voters. In a general election, Sinema looks all but unbeatable.

Of course, progressives want to use these campaigns to erode her intraparty standing for a primary challenge. Those numbers among Democrats suggest that it’s still a haul for progressives, but a poll last week from fellow ideologues at Data for Progress argues that Sinema could be at risk over her stance on the filibuster:

Two-thirds of Democratic primary voters in Arizona say they would support a primary challenge to Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) if she continues to oppose filibuster reform in the Senate, according to a new poll from the progressive think tank Data for Progress.

Only 22 percent of Arizona Democratic primary voters said they would support Sinema’s reelection in 2024 if she maintains her hard-line stance on the filibuster, the longstanding Senate rule that requires a 60-vote minimum to end debate. …

The poll suggests that if Sinema sticks to her current position on filibuster reform, there may be a political price to pay the next time she’s up for reelection. Most Democratic primary voters in Arizona in the poll — 66 percent — say that they would choose a different candidate if Sinema continues to push to preserve the filibuster, while another 13 percent said they’re unsure how they will vote.

The poll also shows Sinema’s job approval among Arizona voters trailing those of both President Biden and Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), who is up for reelection next year and hasn’t yet said publicly where he stands on changing the rule.

Kelly’s at 50/40 overall in the AZPOP poll too, so that appears to be consistent. He’s also at 83/12 among Democrats, but only 47/39 among independents and 23/67 among Republicans. There’s no risk for Kelly in a primary challenge next year, but he might have real trouble hanging onto his seat if Republicans find a good candidate to run against him in the midterms. And two years after that, if progressives succeed in derailing Sinema through a primary challenge, they will make it easy for the GOP to waltz into the Senate seat with anyone to the right of Kelly.

That’s the way most purity campaigns end, of course, and we’ve seen it happen on the Right as well. If progressives can’t unseat Sinema in a primary challenge, though, they’re practically guaranteeing her re-election in the 2024 cycle by accusing her of —gasp— moderation. And again, one has to wonder whether that’s the real intent here.