By Jim Nintzel
A new poll shows Congressman Ron Barber with an 8 percentage point lead over likely Republican challenger Martha McSally in this year's highly competitive Congressional District 2 race.
The survey, conducted by Normington, Petts and Associates and funded by the Democratic-leaning House Majority PAC, showed that Barber had the support of 45 percent of voters, while McSally had the support of 37 percent.
It also showed that Barber had the support of 83 percent of Democrats and 12 percent of Republicans.
When it comes to the independents who are crucial to winning in Congressional District 2, 45 percent said they were backing Barber, while 31 percent were supporting McSally, a former Air Force A-10 pilot and squadron commander.
Barber first won the congressional seat in a June 2012 special election to finish Gabrielle Giffords' term after she stepped down to focus on her recovery efforts after a failed assassination attempt. Barber, a former top aide to Giffords, then won a full term in November 2012 after narrowly defeating McSally by roughly 2,500 votes.
While she is still facing fellow Republicans Shelley Kais and Chuck Wooten in the August primary, McSally is looking for a rematch against Barber this year in what's expected to be one of the most competitive races in the country. In a profile piece last week, Politico noted that the GOP had identified McSally as the "top House recruit of 2014" and noted that she had outraised Barber in the last three fundraising reporting quarters.
McSally's recently hired campaign manager, Weston McKee, said the House Majority PAC's poll release was designed to "mislead" voters.
"Without releasing their methodology, these numbers are meaningless," Weston said. "How can we trust Ron Barber's personal hit group, which has already dropped $350,000 in attack-ads in a seat they are desperate to hold onto?"
Matt Thornton, a spokesman for the House Majority PAC, said the committee would not be releasing more information about the poll, which surveyed 400 likely voters in Congressional District 2 between June 8 and June 10 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percent. But Thornton stood by the survey, saying the House Majority PAC uses the same methodology when determining where to spend money to aid candidates.
"We're not looking for rainbows here," said Thornton, who added that he expected the race to be extremely competitive.
While the House Majority PAC has been airing ads critical of McSally, Thornton pointed out that two non-profit organizations, Americans for Prosperity and the LIBRE Initiative, have been spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on TV ads in the district to undermine Barber.
In the survey released last week, Barber's job performance was rated favorable by 56 percent of those surveyed, while 37 percent had a negative view of his job performance. The survey showed that only 43 percent of the same voters had a favorable view of President Barack Obama; only 52 percent had a favorable view of Gov. Jan Brewer; and only 49 percent had a favorable view of Sen. John McCain.
On the personal level, Barber's favorability level was 49 percent and his unfavorable was 28 percent. McSally's personal favorability was down at 32 percent, while 28 percent of those survey viewed her unfavorably.
The poll has a different result than a McSally-backed survey released in April, which showed 45 percent of voters supporting McSally and just 43 percent supporting Barber.
The McSally campaign did not release all the details of its methodology for the April poll, which also talked to 400 likely voters and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percent.
But it did show that voters have reservations about McSally. A full 51 percent said they thought it was time to "give someone else a chance," compared to the 36 percent who wanted to give Barber another term. But with McSally only getting the support of 45 percent of those surveyed, it appeared that some respondents had reservations about about that "someone else" being McSally.
Barber spokeswoman Ashley Nash-Hahn said Barber's job-performance numbers show that his constituents "overwhelmingly approve of Ron Barber's work in this community. This is why he holds a lead, even after the Koch brothers onslaught of negative ads."
Nash-Hahn emphasized McSally's repeated tendency to avoid telling reporters where she stood on a host of issues.
"These numbers show that Arizonans see through Martha McSally's empty slogans and want straight answers," Nash-Hahn said. "Whether it's protecting Medicare against Paul Ryan's budget or standing against the government shutdown, Martha McSally isn't being honest with Arizonans."
From The Tucson Weekly on June 19, 2014.