Martha McSally down by 9 points in new poll as Democratic rival Mark Kelly posts $13 million haul

McSally may be the most vulnerable Republican incumbent, but the GOP's hopes in other states are fading, too

By Igor Derysh

Managing Editor

Published July 14, 2020 3:44PM (EDT)

US Senator Martha McSally (R) (R-AZ) speaks next to US President Donald Trump at a Keep America Great Rally in Phoenix, AZ, on February 19, 2020. (JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)
US Senator Martha McSally (R) (R-AZ) speaks next to US President Donald Trump at a Keep America Great Rally in Phoenix, AZ, on February 19, 2020. (JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

Retired astronaut Mark Kelly leads Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., by nine points in a new poll published on Tuesday.

The poll, conducted by OH Predictive Insights among 600 likely voters with a margin of error of 4%, shows Kelly leading McSally 52-43.

The poll shows that Kelly, the husband of former Rep. Gabby Giffords, D-Ariz., has cut into McSally's base of support. Kelly has 91% support among self-identified Democrats, while McSally has only 81% support from her own party's voters.

Kelly also leads McSally by 40 points among moderates, 27 points among independents and 19 points among women.

"The formula for a Republican winning statewide office in Arizona involves locking up the GOP vote and garnering just enough independents," pollster Mike Noble said. "Sen. McSally appears to be having a difficult time doing either."

McSally is one of the most vulnerable Republicans facing re-election after losing her previous Senate race to Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz. In 2018, McSally became the first Republican to lose a Senate race in the state in three decades years. Despite her loss, Gov. Doug Ducey appointed her to the vacated seat previously held by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

The move may have been shortsighted. All seven polls released this month show Kelly leading McSally by at least four points. Kelly has also massively outraised McSally in every quarter since announcing his candidacy last year.

Kelly reported bringing in nearly $13 million between March and June and has nearly $24 million in cash on hand. About 89% of his donations last quarter came from contributions of $100 or less, The Hill reported. Kelly has raised $44 million in total. McSally has yet to report her second-quarter fundraising numbers.

McSally has also drawn scorn from The Lincoln Project, a Republican anti-Trump super PAC led by attorney George Conway, the husband of White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, and former McCain adviser Steve Schmidt. The group unveiled a new ad targeting McSally and a virtual town hall aimed at criticizing "McSally's failed leadership," project co-founder Mike Madrid told The Arizona Republic.

"Arizona is a key state in 2020, and frankly, we don't see Trump winning without it," he said. "So we've been ramping up our activity, both in ads and as a grassroots organization there, reaching out to voters to make an honest appeal for them to choose patriotism over cowardice and stand up to Trump and his enablers to protect America."

McSally's race is one of several where the race rating has shifted to the left. The race has moved from a "toss-up" to "lean Democrat," according to Politico. Meanwhile, the Iowa Senate race, where Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, is struggling, has moved to the "toss-up" column, as has the Montana Senate race between Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock and first-term Sen. Steve Daines, R-Montana. The Oregon Senate race, pitting incumbent Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Republican QAnon supporter Jo Rae Perkins, has shifted from "lean Democrat" to "solid Democrat."

The Cook Political Report also lists the races in Colorado, where Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., faces former Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, Maine, where Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, has seen her support collapse in her race against state Speaker of the House Sara Gideon, and North Carolina, where Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., faces state Sen. Cal Cunningham, as toss-ups.

Many of the vulnerable incumbents have embraced President Donald Trump, which could have severe consequences come November. Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden leads Trump by an average of nine points in recent polls, according to election forecaster FiveThirtyEight. Trump's approval rating fell to just 38% in a June Gallup poll, including a 10-point drop among independents since the coronavirus pandemic began.

"As President Trump continues to lose ground against Joe Biden at the top of the ticket, his woes have trickled down ballot," Inside Elections poll analyst Jacob Rubashkin wrote. "With public and private polling indicating a Trump underperformance of 2016 approaching double digits, the Senate map has continued to open for Democrats."

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's managing editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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Aggregate Arizona Donald Trump Elections Elections 2020 Mark Kelly Martha Mcsally Politics Republicans