Mark Kelly’s lead over Martha McSally widens following testy debate

Mark Kelly’s lead over Martha McSally widens following testy debate
U.S. Congresswoman Martha McSally speaking with supporters of President of the United States Donald Trump at a Make America Great Again campaign rally at International Air Response Hangar at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport in Mesa, Arizona. Photo via Gage Skidmore.

Arizona Democrats, more and more, are looking at a possibility that would have seemed unimaginable 20 or 30 years ago: hat the once-red state could end up with two Democratic U.S. senators. And if a new Monmouth University poll is any indication, one of them is likely to be former astronaut Mark Kelly.

Monmouth's poll finds incumbent Republican Sen. Martha McSally trailing Kelly by 10% in Arizona's 2020 U.S. Senate race. Released following McSally's recent debate with Kelly, the poll (which was conducted October 9-13) indicates that the debate didn't do McSally any good.

According to Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, "Both campaigns have been trying to paint their opponents in a negative light. Among that all-important group of independent voters, the image of McSally as a rubber stamp for (President Donald) Trump has more resonance than Kelly being portrayed as in lockstep with the left."

The Monmouth poll is not an outlier. A Reuters/Ipsos poll released after the debate found Kelly ahead by 11%.

If Kelly wins on November 3, he will be joining centrist Democratic Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema in the U.S. Senate next year and taking over the seat that was once held by Sen. Barry Goldwater and later, Sen. John McCain — whose widow, Cindy McCain, has endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden over President Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential race.

The possibility of Arizona having two Democratic U.S. senators is shocking to anyone who remembers the Arizona of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. Back then, Arizona was a deep red state and was synonymous with the phrases "Goldwater conservative" and "Goldwater Republican." But in recent years, Arizona has evolved into a swing state — and embracing Trumpism, Monmouth's poll indicates, is not helping McSally. Monmouth found that Kelly has a 37-55% advantage over McSally with Arizona voters under 50 and a 40-55% advantage over her with voters who are 65 or older. McSally's strongest support comes from voters in the 50-64 age range — that is, a combination of Baby Boomers and older Gen-Xers.

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