TUCSON, Ariz. (CN) – Senator Martha McSally has been in office since January, filling the seat left vacant after the death of Senator John McCain, but Tuesday poll numbers show McSally losing that office next November to her Democratic opponent, former astronaut Mark Kelly.
A retired Navy pilot and space shuttle commander, Kelly would garner 46% of the vote if it were held today, according to a survey of 600 voters conducted last week by OH Predictive Insights.
That put Kelly 5 points ahead of the Republican McSally, a retired Air Force pilot whose Senate career follows one term representing southern Arizona’s 2nd Congressional District.
“Both are former fighter pilots although if our latest poll is any indication – astronauts fly higher than pilots,” Mike Noble, chief of research for the Phoenix research firm, said in a statement. “Expect the numbers to start moving when these two fundraising juggernauts start spending heavy and hard.”
McSally’s last Senate campaign – a 2018 losing bid for the seat now held by Democrat Kyrsten Sinema – cost $114 million, but this campaign is likely to top that. In an interview, Noble noted that this time there is a presidential race to draw voters, as well as media attention, and Arizona and Colorado have also been largely recognized as the two most likely states where Democrats can flip GOP seats.
“Mark Kelly is raising money like a presidential candidate, not a Senate candidate,” Noble said.
The Aug. 13-14 poll is the first among six since June 2018 that shows Democrats ahead in a generic Congressional poll, in which respondents are asked which party’s candidate is most likely to get their votes. Democrats edged out the GOP by 2 percentage points on that question, Noble said.
That is due in part to cross-over voters leaning Democratic. While some Republicans may vote Democratic and vice versa, this time pollsters found more Republicans leaning toward Kelly.
“Usually they cancel each other out,” Noble said in the interview.
Maricopa County, home to 4 million people in the Phoenix metropolitan area, is a Republican stronghold in Arizona. Tucson, where roughly 1 million Arizonans live, leans more Democratic. The latest poll shows Kelly leading McSally by 9 percentage points in Maricopa County (46%-38%) and 14 points in Pima County.
That Maricopa lead is a big deal, Noble said, because only one statewide candidate has won in Arizona without both counties, and that was a race for state superintendent of public education.
“All roads lead through Maricopa County,” he said.
Overall, 47% of respondents viewed McSally favorably, slightly more than Kelly’s 45%. But 45% gave McSally an unfavorable view, while just 25% viewed Kelly negatively.
The poll showed that 31% percent either didn’t know Kelly — the husband of former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who survived a bullet to the head in the 2011 Tucson mass shooting — or had no opinion of him.
OH Predictive Services tracks numerous political issues in Arizona, including state races, the presidential race, the current marijuana legalization effort and other topics. For more information, follow @MikePNoble on Twitter or go to OHPredictive.com.
Neither campaign immediately responded to a request for comment.