Poll: GOP voters not set on Ward
Flake’s departure opens door to a ‘free-for-all’
With incumbent U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake out of the 2018 Senate race, Arizona Republican primary voters have not yet settled on nominating his main challenger, former state Sen. Kelli Ward, as his successor.
Polls showed Ward with big leads over the unpopular Flake, but now that he’s withdrawn from the race, Republicans and GOP-leaning independents appear receptive to an alternative to Ward, who failed in her 2016 primary challenge to Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
A new poll of 500 likely primaryelection voters from Higley-based Data Orbital found 32.38 percent were either definitely or probably voting for Ward, compared to 29.21 percent who said they were definitely or probably not voting for her.
Another 33.73 percent said it would depend on who gets in the race, and 4.68 percent refused to answer.
The poll, a combination of automated and live questions conducted Thursday through Saturday, has a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points.
“With a little under a year left to go, GOP primary voters are still extremely uncertain about who they will be voting for,” said George Khalaf, the Republican pollster and consultant who conducted the survey.
“Pundits disagreed about whether Senator Flake’s announcement would hurt or help Ward’s chances and these numbers seem to prove that his departure from the race has definitely hurt her numbers,” he said in a statement.
The Data Orbital poll, which had a margin of error of plus-or-minus 4.4 percentage points, also tested Ward and other names that have come up as possible Republican Senate candidates. It did not include U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar, RAriz., who is said to be considering a possible run, or state Treasurer Jeff DeWit and former Arizona GOP chairman Robert Graham, who have been mentioned as Flake challengers for months.
Ward, who is an osteopathic doctor, was recently embraced by Steve Bannon, the controversial former White House strategist, as part of his effort to oust the Republican establishment. She also has been endorsed by national conservative personalities Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham.
‘It’s a free-for-all’
With 28 percent undecided, Ward led the potential pack with 26.4 percent, followed by U.S. Rep. Martha McSally at 18.6 percent; former U.S. Rep. Matt Salmon at 10.4 percent; U.S. Rep. David Schweikert at 5.2 percent; former U.S. Rep. John Shadegg at 3.9 percent; and Arizona Board of Regents member Jay Heiler at 1.2 percent. The other 6.1 percent refused to answer.
“The takeaway is that it’s a free-forall,” Khalaf told The Arizona Republic.
Heiler, a well-known figure at the State Capitol for years as the former chief of staff to former Gov. Fife Symington and a longtime lobbyist, has formed an exploratory committee for the Senate race. It is chaired by former Gov. Jan Brewer.
The fiscally conservative Club for Growth PAC, which is influential in Republican primaries, on Friday made it clear that it prefers Salmon over McSally.
In a news release, the club’s president, David McIntosh, hailed Salmon as “a proven, principled conservative who has been a reliable fighter for economic freedom for many years.”
The same day, the Club PAC and other national “tea-party”-aligned groups such as the Senate Conservatives Fund, FreedomWorks and Eagle Forum put out a joint statement in opposition to the more moderate McSally, who the groups said “masquerades as a conservative on the campaign trail but time and time again ... has abandoned conservative principles.”
Flake’s differences with Trump
Flake, a first-term senator who before that served 12 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, rocked the political world Tuesday by announcing that he would not seek re-election after all.
Flake acknowledged that his highprofile differences with President Donald Trump on tone and, in some cases, policy — and Trump’s fierce counter-attacks — likely doomed his chances in Arizona’s Aug. 28 Republican Senate primary.
“Here’s the bottom line: The path that I would have to travel to get the Republican nomination is a path I’m not willing to take, and that I can’t in good conscience take,” Flake told The Republic.
“It would require me to believe in positions I don’t hold on such issues as trade and immigration, and it would require me to condone behavior that I cannot condone.”
The Data Orbital poll reflects Trump’s strong standing among Arizona GOP primary voters: 54 percent said they have a strongly favorable view of the president and another 17.2 percent said they have a somewhat favorable view of him.
That’s opposed to 16.2 percent who said they had a strongly unfavorable view of Trump and 5.6 percent who said they had a somewhat unfavorable view of him. The rest of the poll’s sample was either neutral, undecided or refused to answer the Trump question.