Republican congresswoman Martha McSally appears to be gaining in the Arizona Senate race. Though she continues to trail Democratic congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema in the RealClearPolitics average by a 1.8-percentage-point margin, two new polls show McSally improving her position. An ABC15/OHPI poll released today puts McSally up 47–41 with 8 percent undecided among a sample of 600 likely voters, while a CBS/YouGov poll released October 7 shows McSally trailing 47–44 — within the margin of error, and closer than the previous YouGov survey.
What could explain the shift in the race? A former Green party activist turned Blue Dog Democrat, Sinema has tried to move to the center and bill herself as a political pragmatist. That’s a necessary move in a state where, despite changing demographics and a GOP whose identity is in flux, Republicans still enjoy a meaningful voter-registration edge. But Sinema has recently come under scrutiny in the national press for appearing to exaggerate elements of her family history. Reports in the New York Times and the Washington Post cast doubt on Sinema’s stories of growing up homeless, without water, electricity, or plumbing — stories that have been integral to her campaign. The suggestion that Sinema is a fabulist about not only her home life but also her political convictions might have something to do with her falling numbers.
Of course, the nationalization of the race may also be having an effect. The CBS battleground poll found that Arizonans wanted Brett Kavanaugh to be confirmed, albeit by a slim, 41–39 plurality, and that national issues were more important than local ones. ABC15/OHPI also included Green party candidate Angela Freen in its survey for the first time, which could have depressed Sinema’s support.
The two candidates are set to debate on October 15, and prominent Republicans, including George W. Bush and Mitt Romney, are slated to campaign on McSally’s behalf in the coming weeks.