TUCSON, Ariz. (CN) – With election day little more than a week away and 10 percent of voters still undecided, polls in Arizona’s Senate race show support teetering on a knife’s edge between Democrat Kyrsten Sinema and Republican Martha McSally.
Neither candidate has emerged as a clear leader after 10 recent polls of likely voters.
A Data Orbital survey published Oct. 19 shows Sinema leading 47 to 41 percent with 12 percent of voters undecided, but a NY Times/Siena poll published the same day shows McSally with a 48 to 46 percent edge and just 6 percent undecided.
Polls last month and in the early days of October showed Sinema leading, but more recent polls hint that lead might be slipping as the number of undecided voters drops. Just two of 10 recent polls show either candidate with a lead greater than the margin of error.
The key in the final stretch of the campaign is swaying those undecided voters, according to University of Arizona political science professor Tom Volgy. McSally is toeing the GOP line, sounding the alarm about government-run health care and open borders.
“McSally was doing pages 1 to 3 from the Republican playbook,” Volgy said after a recent candidate debate.
Racquel Dickson, 36, a full-time student at Pima Community College in Tucson, will vote for Sinema, largely because she thinks McSally votes too often with her own party and the president.
According to the website FiveThirtyEight.com, which tracks congressional votes against the president’s positions, McSally agreed with the president on 98 percent of votes, while Sinema agreed with him 62 percent of the time.
“I feel like we need someone more level-headed, rather than someone who always votes the same way,” Dickson said, adding that even President Trump’s endorsement of McSally was a turn-off.
Phil Pinkus, an author and security team leader who is white and lives in Scottsdale, is looking for someone who will support Trump, whether on the economy, the border or foreign policy. He sees McSally as “level-headed” and doesn’t think she is just rubber-stamping her party’s policies.
He backs the idea of a strong border and sees plenty of evidence that Trump’s policies work to create jobs, repatriate foreign profits, and grow the Gross Domestic Product. Pinkus believes that if Obama had lowered taxes and reduced regulation, he would have been at the helm for similar improvements.
“It’s not that it’s Trump or Obama. It’s the economic theory they’re using,” Pinkus, who is a registered Republican, said.
Dickson is registered independent and was an early Trump supporter. She isn’t against beefing up security on the border or tightening restrictions on immigration, but she thinks Trump has blown the problem out of proportion. We don’t need a bigger wall, she said, and she doesn’t like the current administration’s tone or approach.
“I think those are issues that need to be addressed, but without the racist undertones,” Dickson, who is black, said.
Pinkus believes McSally will back a more effective border stance.
“I believe in a wall, and I believe it will work,” Pinkus said, adding that the caravan of refugees winding through Mexico toward the U.S. could be an important issue in the next week.
Dickson, who has heart problems and no insurance, also won’t support candidates who want to reduce health care benefits.
“It just shows that they don’t care that much about people’s welfare,” she said.
McSally, a retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel, was the nation’s first woman combat pilot. She is a two-term representative of Congressional District 2, which stretches from Tucson’s urban core east to New Mexico and south to Mexico.
Sinema grew up poor in Tucson, went to Arizona State University on a scholarship, and became a social worker. She later attended law school and served in the Arizona Senate before her three terms representing congressional District 9 in urban Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix.
The race has polarized the candidates, both of whom used more moderate rhetoric in their own districts, according to Arizona State University political science professor Kim Fridkin. She and Volgy agree that Democrats can’t take the Senate without winning this race.
The campaign tone has sharpened in recent days, with McSally accusing Sinema last week in a televised debate of being indifferent to treason during a radio appearance 15 years ago, when she said that it was “fine” if the host hypothetically wanted to join the Taliban.
“That’s a little odd to go so far back in someone’s record when she has a more recent legislative record,” Fridkin said.
Pinkus doesn’t see a blue wave coming, and he thinks McSally will eke out a win.
“It’s like the momentum on the Democratic side just doesn’t seem to be there. This race is going to be very interesting. I think it’s going to go down to the wire,” he said.