The Democrat Is Up Big In Arizona’s Senate Race — For Now reports fivethirtyeight in this morning’s email Poll of the week. That would be Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema. All the polls so far have her winning over GOP possibilities (McSally, Ward, Arpaio). However, the support among Dems is united whereas the Republicans are split among those three candidates, and there is a large block of uncommitted voters who tend to swing Republican. Following are snippets with details.
Holding onto all of their U.S. Senate seats in red states would all be for naught for Democrats if they don’t net the two pickups they need to take control of the chamber. This week, two polls came out showing that Democrats are comfortably ahead in one must-win state — Arizona, where Republican Sen. Jeff Flake is retiring.
But there’s reason to think that cushion won’t hold up to the rigors of the general election.
According to a CBS News/YouGov poll conducted June 19–22, likely Democratic nominee U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema leads all of her potential Republican opponents by at least 7 percentage points among registered voters: She leads Rep. Martha McSally 41 percent to 34 percent, former state Sen. Kelli Ward 43 percent to 35 percent and former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio 45 percent to 28 percent. An NBC News/Marist poll conducted June 17–21 showed similar results: Sinema led McSally 49 percent to 38 percent, Ward 48 percent to 38 percent and Arpaio 57 percent to 32 percent.
If we take these results at face value, Arizona doesn’t even look that competitive; Sinema would be heavily favored. But there’s plenty of reason to believe that the race will tighten before November. One red flag is the high number of respondents who refused to support one of the two major party candidates. Instead, from 11 percent to 27 percent of voters said that they were undecided, intended to vote for a third-party candidate or won’t vote at all.
But many of these voters won’t stay uncommitted. Undecided ones will hop off the fence, and lots of people who now say they’ll support a third-party candidate probably won’t follow through with it. (Third-party support tends to decline as campaigns progress.)
… Republicans are in the midst of a contentious primary between McSally, Ward and Arpaio, while Democrats are united behind Sinema. Many Ward voters, for example, are not inclined to think kindly of McSally at the moment, and that’s probably keeping some usually reliable Republican voters from telling pollsters they will support the party’s nominee no matter what. But by the fall, these voters usually return to the fold as hard feelings from the primary fade away.
I’m not saying Sinema can’t win (let’s not get too cute; these polling numbers are great news for her), but I am saying Democrats would be foolish to take Arizona for granted or divert resources from it on the basis of a few early polls. Demographics make Democrats’ path to victory in the Grand Canyon State a narrow one: Despite a growing minority (especially Latino) population, it is not yet a big enough share of the electorate to hand Democrats a win on their own. Sinema could still win by performing respectably among white voters, which she does in the polls from this week. That’s possible because Sinema has forged one of the most conservative voting records of any House Democrat and Arizona is a fairly elastic state, meaning its voters are generally persuadable. But at the end of the day, it is still discernibly red — 7 percentage points further right than the nation as a whole, according to FiveThirtyEight’s partisan lean metric. Once Arizona’s base partisanship sets in and currently uncommitted voters come home to their usual camps, this is likely to be every bit the toss-up race everyone thinks it will be.
But before you take strong objection to Sinema’s “conservative” voting record, please re-read my earlier Research report - Krysten Sinema’s votes reveal progressive values. When considering bills that clearly are of concern to progressives, Sinema is not the perfect progressive but is one hell of a better choice (scoring 85% progressive) than McSally (scoring 3% progressive). So if you decide to stay home or just not vote for Sinema, then you place yourself at risk of being one of 167 votes that keeps Flake’s Senate seat in the company of GOPlins. (In case you missed it, that 167 is the number of nonvoters that sent McSally to Washington.)