GOP still not breaking through in AZ Senate race

Republicans in Arizona are still apparently looking for their “come together” moment in the Senate race between Republican Congresswoman Martha McSally and her Democratic opponent, Representative Kyrsten Sinema. Back in June, coming out of a divisive primary battle among the Republicans, Sinema was holding onto a very solid lead in the polls. Now that the primary is well behind us, McSally has picked up a lot of ground, but not quite enough. The latest polling shows Sinema still holding onto a slim lead inside the margins. (NBC News)

Arizona’s closely watched Senate race is a statistical tie, according to a new NBC News / Marist College poll that shows Democrat Kyrsten Sinema leading Republican Martha McSally by three points with likely voters, within the poll’s margin of error.

The poll finds Sinema garnering 48 percent support from Arizona likely voters in a two-way contest, while McSally has the backing of 45 percent.

Among all registered voters, it’s a similar margin at 47 percent for Sinema, 44 percent for McSally. That result shows that the race has tightened since June, before McSally clinched the GOP nomination. At that time, Sinema led McSally among registered voters, 49 percent to 38 percent. (NBC News did not calculate a likely voter model for its June survey.)

It’s worth noting that these numbers are just for the head-to-head matchup. There’s a Green Party candidate on the ballot, Angela Green, and she pulls roughly 6% of the vote, but it’s nearly an even split. With Green as an option, Sinema’s lead drops, but only by a single point, leaving her with a two-point lead.

They are fighting over Jeff Flake’s seat, so you’d think there would still be a residual constituency coming home to the GOP side. And there’s a lot to like about McSally, particularly with her military experience. But for some reason, the Democrat is not only competitive but threatening to come out on top. It’s hard to deny that the Trump effect is in play here, but how much? The President carried Arizona by 3.5% in 2016 but he’s currently underwater by two points there. McSally got pushed considerably further to the right during the primary and had to demonstrate her support for the President because the base there remains strongly pro-Trump. Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that the President’s slip in approval is tracking almost exactly the same as McSally’s small deficit in current polling.

Of course, nothing in politics is ever that simple and with a race this tight we could easily see another survey next week where Sinema is losing by two or three. The real question remains what, if anything, can McSally do to break through and start building some momentum in the final seven weeks? The big issue of the day is obviously Kavanaugh, and the winner of this race will be voting on future SCOTUS confirmations should they arise. But so far McSally is trying to walk a tightrope on that one. You can read an interview here that she did this weekend talking about the current confirmation mess. She’s urging “respect” for Christine Ford and her need to testify (McSally is a childhood sexual assault survivor herself) but also calling for “due process” for the SCOTUS nominee.

This is Arizona we’re talking about, so immigration and border control should also be big issues. McSally has the right answers to those questions, but the state seems equally divided there as well. In the end, this may come down to pulling a card out of a hat unless she can find a way to really carve out a durable lead.

David Strom 10:01 PM on September 26, 2022