Some good news today out of Arizona:
Retired astronaut Mark Kelly (D) holds a 9-point lead over Sen. Martha McSally (R) in Arizona, a state critical to Democrats' hopes of reclaiming control of the U.S. Senate.
Kelly leads McSally by a 52 percent to 43 percent margin, according to a new survey conducted by the Phoenix-based firm OH Predictive Insights. Kelly leads by 27 percentage points among independent voters, by 19 points among women and by 40 points among voters who call themselves moderate.
Kelly, a first-time candidate who has raised eye-popping sums of money, has consolidated the Democratic vote in a way that McSally has not among the GOP. Kelly takes 91 percent of the vote among self-described Democrats, while McSally captures 81 percent of the Republican vote.
“The formula for a Republican winning statewide office in Arizona involves locking up the GOP vote and garnering just enough independents,” said Mike Noble, chief of research at OH Predictive Insights. “Sen. McSally appears to be having a difficult time doing either.”
Kelly is running ahead of the margins Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D) managed when she narrowly beat McSally in 2018, becoming the first Democrat to win a Senate seat in the state that produced Barry Goldwater and John McCain in a generation.
Sinema won among female voters by 4 points; Kelly leads among women by 19. Sinema won liberal Pima County by 16 points; Kelly leads there by 27. Sinema won Hispanic voters by 19 points; Kelly’s lead among those voters is twice that.
Critically in a mostly rural state dominated by one major metropolitan area, Kelly leads McSally by 12 points among voters in Maricopa County, the home of Phoenix and about three-fifths of Arizona’s registered voters.
Peter Slevin at The New Yorker explains that Democrats have a lot of reasons to be optimistic about flipping Arizona:
If Republicans are headed toward a reckoning in November, Arizona offers warning signals for a beleaguered party that is defending seats up and down the ballot for the second election cycle in a row. Energized Democrats have spent years building a grassroots operation, especially in the big cities that often determine statewide success. “It’s one of those states that’s moving our direction little by little,” Josh Schwerin, the communications director of Priorities USA, a pro-Biden super-pac that is running an ad accusing Trump of “failing America,” said. Schwerin reported that the organization plans to spend eleven million dollars on advertising in Arizona before Election Day. The Lincoln Project, an increasingly high-profile effort led by Republicans who aim to defeat Trump and many of his supporters in the Senate, is running withering ads in Arizona, targeting Trump and McSally.
One sign of change is visible in voter registration, which has grown by twenty-five per cent since 2012. During that time, Democrats have cut the Republican registration lead in half, with about one-third of Arizonans registering as independents. Significantly, Latino voter registration and turnout have increased, favoring Democrats. An Arizona State University poll, conducted in March, before Biden became the presumptive Democratic nominee, showed a wide preference among Latino voters for Kelly and any Democrat running against Trump. An intensification of old-fashioned canvassing helped. “We know that we can improve voter turnout and that, over time, once you get people voting, they’ll continue to vote,” Eric Meyer, the former Democratic leader in the state House, told me.
On a Sunday afternoon in June, two Democratic candidates for state representative on Meyer’s old legislative turf, District 28, held a Zoom call to mobilize volunteers. For more than ninety minutes, forty people discussed issues ranging from health care to the challenge of attracting fence-sitting Republicans. One of the candidates was Kelli Butler, who won office on November 8, 2016, the night that Trump stunned Hillary Clinton. “I thought it was going to be this wonderful election party, and I felt like I’d boarded the Titanic,” Butler told me. Yet Trump’s election had a silver lining for Democrats in her district, which includes the prosperous Paradise Valley and parts of North Central Phoenix: it inspired anti-Republican activism. “Just a huge jump of people,” she said. Christine Marsh, a high-school English teacher who was once Arizona’s teacher of the year, was the other candidate on the Zoom call. She is in a rematch of the 2018 state-senate race, when she came within two hundred and sixty-seven votes of defeating the incumbent, a moderate Republican named Kate Brophy McGee. To win this time, Marsh said, her team has helped register four thousand more Democrats and is making about two thousand phone calls a week.
McGee has watched the shift from the other side of the partisan divide. She described it as “a great migration of Republican voters who are not happy with the state of affairs. A lot of times, they’re mad enough to tell me about it.” She often hears people criticizing Trump’s behavior and complaining that the Republican Party too often follows his lead. As a legislator who tries to work the middle of the field, she treads carefully. “I can go up into what I call Trump country, and they are feeling for the very first time that they have been heard. They really feel like he is representing them. And they’re thrilled with him,” McGee said. “And you get down into some of the areas of the district that are a little more affluent, they can’t stand him.” While we were talking, McGee remembered something that had left her feeling hopeful. “I just got an e-mail. Hang on,” she said. She found it and started reading. “Dear Senator: As a former Republican, now an independent, I support your election, and I made a donation today. You are one of the few remaining Republicans that represents my views and moderation. Good luck. I hope someday you’ll become governor.” McGee laughed, and said, “So, I feel confident, but I know it’s going to be a heck of a race. It always is.”
What’s working for Arizona Democrats, according to an array of political strategists and present and former candidates, is an appeal to decency and moderation, even bipartisanship. That, plus a focus on issues close to home, notably health insurance and education. A similar playbook was crucial for the victorious Democratic challengers who helped capture the U.S. House in 2018, and it is guiding Biden as he works to draw a contrast with Trump’s acidic attacks. In the Arizona Senate race, it also happens to suit Kelly, a first-time candidate who comes across in public as amiable and low-key. In a Zoom call organized by the Arizona Democratic Party on May 30th, shortly before a SpaceX rocket launched a mission to the International Space Station, he said he wanted to make sure, during the pandemic, that Arizonans “know we’re here, and you’re not alone.” In brief remarks, without offering details, he spoke of the need for affordable health care, as well as lower prescription-drug prices and protections for Medicare and Social Security. “He’s just a really qualified, nice, sensible person. He’s articulate. He cares a lot,” Butler said. “We all have so much respect for Gabby Giffords, and all that they have done since that tragedy.”
Let’s keep up the momentum and flip Arizona Blue. Click below to donate and get involved with Kelly, Biden and their fellow Arizona Democrats campaigns: