PHOENIX — Three new polls this past week show the race to replace Jeff Flake in the U.S. Senate is pretty much a toss-up.
A live-telephone survey done Sept. 4 through Sept. 6 by Data Orbital found Democrat Kyrsten Sinema supported by 46.1 percent of those questioned, giving her a 4.3 percentage point lead over Republican Martha McSally.
Pollster George Khalaf, who questioned 550 likely general election voters, also found Libertarian Adam Kokesh, who didn’t survive the primary, with the backing of 2.3 percent of those asked, with the balance held by the other 9.5 percent who for the moment favor neither major party candidate.
By contrast, an telephone survey of 597 likely voters done by Mike Noble of OH Predictive Insights on Sept. 5 and 6, half live calls to cellphones and half automated to landlines, found McSally the choice of 49 percent, with a 3-point lead over Sinema in a head-to-head race.
And Fox News released its own live telephone poll of 710 likely voters conducted between Saturday and this past Tuesday showing Sinema at 47 percent to 44 percent for McSally.
In all cases, however, the spread is within the margin of error. And none of the surveys asked about Angela Green who will be on the November ballot as the Green Party candidate.
More to the point, Noble said all each survey represents is a snapshot in time of the views of the sample that each of the pollsters got. And given the what he said is the “ungodly amount of money’’ that both sides will put into the race in commercials — upwards of $20 million — those numbers are likely to change, perhaps radically.
Noble, whose firm has questioned voters about McSally versus Sinema for nine months, said that’s already proving to be the case.
Just a month ago, his poll showed Sinema up by four points. The reversal of fortune, he noted, follows the recent release by Republicans of some deliberately negative advertising about Sinema, including a 2003 picture of her, in a pink tutu, protesting the Bush administration policies of going to war in the Middle East.
McSally has sought to paint the protest of the war as “denigrating’’ the service of those in uniform —-- including McSally herself who was a fighter pilot.
And Noble said that the movement between polls appears to be largely in the “swing’’ voters, those not firmly attacked to either candidate, who also can be swayed by other news, including what appears to be the popular decision by Gov. Doug Ducey to name Jon Kyl to replace John McCain.
All that, Noble said, shows the volatility of the race, which is why he said that race watchers should stay tuned.
“We go back in the field in a week or so and we’re going to be polling multiple more times,’’ he said. “We’ll know in about a week or so whether that number stuck.’’
But Khalaf said there’s something else that might explain why his survey has Sinema up over McSally versus Noble’s poll. Khalaf presumes that Democrats will have a higher turnout this year than they normally do in off-year elections than Noble.
That, he said, is significant, as it will cut into the advantage that Republicans, with their 153,000-registrant edge, traditionally have in statewide races. In fact, Khalaf said, the outcome of the election depends on it.
“In order for Democrats to be truly competitive ... they have to limit the Republican ballot advantage to probably 4 or 5 percent,’’ he said. At 6 or 7 percent, Khalaf said, the race could go either way.
“Anything 8 (percent) or above, I don’t think you’re going to see much change on who’s in office,’’ he said.
There’s something else waiting in the wings.
President Trump is expected to visit Arizona, though the date for planned rally has yet to be hammered down.
Trump remains very popular among the GOP base, the same base that McSally appealed to in her successful primary race against the more conservative Kelli Ward and Joe Arpaio.
But a Data Orbital poll showed that, among all likely Arizona voters, Trump’s 42.2 percent favorable rating is exceeded by the 48.7 percent who have a negative view of the president.
Despite that, McSally spokeswoman Torunn Sinclair said her candidate intends to stick with her backing of the president and will share a stage with him whenever he does come to Arizona.
Noble said that, at this point, McSally really has no choice.
“If you do that, you lose your base,’’ he said.
And Khalaf said there’s no downside to McSally staying cozy with the president.
He said Sinema and Democrats will link Trump and McSally together “because there are some negatives there with pockets of voters.’’ So if she’s going to be linked to Trump, Khalaf said, McSally might just as well take advantage of the popularity he does have “so the Republican base gets jazzed up.’’
But Ducey, who will be faced with the same decision, would not make the same commitment to appear with the president as the governor attempts to ward off a challenge from Democrat David Garcia. He told Capitol Media Services that the question of sharing the stage is premature as a date has not yet been set for a Trump visit.
A year ago, Ducey did greet the president at the airport but did not go to the Phoenix Convention Center. Press aide Daniel Scarpinato said his boss was focused on working with law enforcement to ensure a safe event.
But Ducey did participate in a rally for Trump after he was nominated to be the GOP candidate in 2016.