by Jim Nintzel
We noted last week that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee had released a poll showing Congressman Ron Barber with a massive, 14-percentage-point lead over GOP challenger Martha McSally.
McSally released a poll of her own yesterday showing a race that was knotted up in a dead heat, with both candidates capturing 47 percent of the vote. Five percent of the voters were undecided.
Barber spokesman Mark Prentice said via email that Team Barber remained “confident that Ron Barber will win this race because Southern Arizonans know that he is fighting for the middle class and they also know that Martha McSally agrees with Jesse Kelly on issue after issue—like privatizing Social Security.”
McSally’s poll—first leaked to Roll Call last Wednesday, Oct. 5—has yet to lead to the Rothenberg Political Report moving the CD2 seat out of the “Democrat Favored” column. The Cook Political Report has CD2 in the "Likely Democrat" column. And National Journal’s Hotline House Race Rankings has CD2 way down on the list of seats likely to flip in 2012, at No. 70 out of 71 in the country. Hotline’s Scott Bland noted last week that McSally “is one to watch, but probably in the future.”
Here’s the final sign that the DCCC isn’t that worried about Barber’s campaign: They cancelled plans to run TV ads supporting him over the next few weeks.
But even as the DCCC is pulling out, the National Republican Congressional Committee is entering the CD2 arena. As we reported last week, NRCC spokesman Daniel Scarpinato confirmed that the NRCC has reserved $255,000 in air time to boost McSally's Southern Arizona campaign, with an ad that’s scheduled to run through Oct. 18.
And McSally herself is running a hard race. She tapped Republican Jim Kolbe, who represented Southern Arizona in Congress for 22 years before retiring in 2006, to cut a TV ad for her denouncing another TV ad that was run by the House Majority PAC, an independent expenditure committee dedicated to electing Democrats.
The House Majority PAC ad took aim at McSally for supporting a plan that would allow younger workers to invest a portion of their Social Security taxes in private accounts.
“I saw Ron Barber unfairly attack my friend, Martha McSally,” Kolbe in said in McSally ad, which you can see above. “He's wrong.”
Team Barber spokesman Prentice said via email that Kolbe “supports privatizing Social Security, so it is no surprise he has endorsed Martha McSally. She wants to raise the retirement age, voucherize Medicare and gamble Social Security in the stock market, just like he does. But Ron Barber is committed to protecting Social Security and Medicare and has stood up against plans to privatize and voucherize these programs—plans that would weaken Social security and Medicare and hurt Arizona seniors.”
Team McSally also scored a few points by persuading KVOA, Channel 4, to take the House Majority PAC ad down a few days before its one-week run was completed.
McSally spokesman Bruce Harvie said in a statement that the TV ad was “clearly false and lies about Martha's stance on the very important issue of Social Security. … Martha McSally never supported privatization of Social Security.”
While McSally hasn’t called for total privatization of Social Security, she has supported allowing younger workers to divert some of their Social Security taxes into private retirement funds—a plan that groups such as the AARP have called privatization. Those plans have been criticized over concerns that diverting money out of the Social Security system would make it harder for the program to continue paying benefits for those who still depend on it.
House Majority PAC spokesman Andy Stone stood by the TV ad “100 percent.”
“Countless experts from across the political spectrum recognize the type of plan McSally laid out to be privatization,” Stone said via email. “In fact, the non-partisan AARP not only called that type of proposal privatization, but even said that such a plan would undermine the financial stability of the Social Security system. It's unfortunate for KVOA viewers that the station has chosen to deny them the opportunity to learn more about Martha McSally's record.”