As we head towards November, some worrying signs are percolating up from the ground in Arizona that Republicans will face a rough road holding onto Sen. Jeff Flake’s U.S. Senate seat– and potentially also that of U.S. Sen. John McCain, should he retire before the end of his term or succumb to the cancer he has thus far successfully fought off.
A poll released last week shows the supposed-to-be GOP nominee for Flake’s seat, Rep. Martha McSally, trailing Kelli Ward, a candidate widely believed to be incapable of holding the seat, by almost ten points. The same poll shows Democrat Kyrsten Sinema leading Ward by ten points and McSally by six.
For some supporters of Flake who argued his retirement was prompted as much by concerns about the general election as the GOP primary, the poll is confirmation that the GOP, writ large, is in deep trouble this year in Arizona, which Democrats have treated as a priority state for flipping for several elections now.
Another move seen as signaling electoral weakness on the part of Arizona Republicans is a legislative push to allow the appointment of a replacement U.S. Senator for a lengthy term before such replacement, or other candidates, face voters on an actual ballot. According to the AP, the aim is to prevent two Senate seats from appearing on November’s ballot, should something happen to McCain before then– a hint that the GOP does not believe it could hold either or both seats, were candidates placed in front of voters this November.
That is a conclusion that seems logical, with the poll placing McSally behind Ward showing that Sinema leads with independents in head-to-head match-ups with Republicans, collecting anywhere between 60 and 76 percent of the vote against potential GOP rivals.
The same poll shows that President Trump has a meager 25 percent approval rating among Arizona independent voters, meaning that unlike in some races, if the Arizona GOP nominee does lose, it will be directly attributable to Trump.
The Arizona legislative bill is unlikely to make it into law, with Democrats already having blocked it. So, whether Arizona Republicans like it or not, the reality is that the GOP could, depending on McCain’s health, wind up holding neither Senate seat come next January. That would be an astounding reversal of GOP fortunes in a fairly red state, and a major victory for Democrats in encroaching onto traditional Republican turf.