McCain In Deep Trouble in GOP Primary; Trump, Clinton Close in AZ

| Tom Jensen

PPP’s new Arizona poll finds that John McCain has a negative approval rating with Republican primary voters, and is at pretty serious risk of losing nomination for another term. Only 35% of GOP voters approve of the job McCain is doing to 50% who disapprove. He’s in particularly poor standing with conservative voters. Among ‘somewhat conservative’ voters his approval spread is 33/52, and among ‘very conservative’ voters it drops all the way down to 18/67.

McCain is polling at only 39% in the Republican primary field. He’s benefiting from having multiple opponents. Kelli Ward is at 26%, Alex Meluskey at 4%, Scott McBean at 3%, and Clair Van Steenwyk at 2%. 27% are undecided. McCain is very strong among moderates, leading Ward 60-10. But among ‘somewhat conservative’ voters he leads just 34-29, and with ‘very conservative’ ones he’s down 35-28. When you narrow the field down to just a choice between McCain and Ward, it’s a tie at 41%. Ward is polling this competitively at this point despite having only 41% name recognition.

Even if McCain does manage to survive the Republican primary, it’s not going to be a walk in the park for him in the general. His overall approval rating is 34/52, and he leads Ann Kirkpatrick only 42/36 in a head to head match up. The race is close despite Kirkpatrick having only 58% name recognition at this point. If Ward advances to the general election it looks like this contest will basically be a toss up- she gets 37% to 35% for Kirkpatrick so it’s pretty much a wash. 

One issue that’s tricky for McCain right now is the Supreme Court fight. 61% of voters in the state say they support confirmation hearings for Merrick Garland, compared to only 24% who are opposed to them. By a 17 point margin voters say they’re less likely to vote for a Senator who opposes hearings- 40% say that stance makes them less likely to vote for someone, compared to only 23% who consider it a positive. But among Republican voters there’s 35/44 opposition to hearings, and voters say by a 16 point spread that they’re more likely to vote for someone who opposes hearings. So McCain’s obstructionism might be helpful in getting him through the primary, but it’s a completely different story when you get to the general. For instance independents support hearings, 65/21.

The Presidential election is pretty competitive in Arizona at this point. Donald Trump leads Hillary Clinton just 40-38, with Gary Johnson at 6% and Jill Stein at 2%. There’s a significant ‘Never Trump’ contingent among Arizona Republicans. While Clinton gets 80% of the Democratic vote, Trump is only getting 68% of the GOP vote at this stage. That number tracks with our finding that just 65% of Republicans say they’re comfortable with Trump as their nominee to 22% who say they aren’t. When you narrow the field to just Clinton and Trump though, Trump’s lead goes up to 45/41 because his share of the GOP vote increases to 77%. 15% of Republicans are undecided compared to 8% of Democrats, so if the party really unites around Trump eventually he’ll get close to being up by the kind of margins Republicans are accustomed to in the state but for now it’s tight.

Bernie Sanders is not going to be the Democratic nominee for President but he leads Trump 42/39 with Johnson at 6% and Stein at 2%, and has a 45/44 advantage over Trump head to head. The difference between how Clinton and Sanders perform continues to come almost entirely among younger voters. Clinton leads Trump 39/32 with voters under 45, but Sanders’ lead with that group goes up to 52/29.

Picking Jan Brewer as his running mate would not be an asset for Trump in Arizona. She has only a 35% favorability rating in the state to 46% of voters who see her unfavorably. Trump actually does 4 points worse against both Clinton and Sanders in a hypothetical scenario where Brewer is his running mate- he ties Clinton at 43, and his disadvantage against Sanders spikes to 46/41. 

Full results here

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