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VETERANS AFFAIRS IN THE SENATE RACE

We saw three different polls in the U.S. Senate race between Republican Jeff Flake and Democrat Richard Carmona released last week.

One was from the GOP-leaning Rasmussen Reports, which showed Flake with a six-point lead (Flake 47 percent; Carmona 41 percent); one was from Carmona's campaign, which showed Flake with a one-point lead (Flake 44 percent; Carmona 43 percent); and one was from Moore Information, which showed Flake with a three-point lead (Flake 43 percent; Carmona 40 percent).

That final poll was commissioned by HighGround, the political consulting firm run by Chuck Coughlin, the strategist who has guided Gov. Jan Brewer through her gubernatorial stint. The numbers led Coughlin to note on HighGround's blog that the race has clearly tightened, and the key question was "which campaigns can grab the momentum in the next two weeks, and who can close effectively."

To that end, Team Carmona released a hard-hitting TV ad comparing Carmona's service in Vietnam to a variety of votes by Flake to cut funding for services for veterans.

Team Flake responded with a list of votes that Flake had taken to support veterans, and shared a statement from Sen. John McCain as validation.

"Dr. Carmona's false and negative attack on Jeff Flake is exactly the kind of politics that Arizonans are sick and tired of," McCain said. "These kinds of attacks aren't going to help a single Arizona veteran get better care. I've worked with Jeff Flake on veterans issues for 12 years, so I know firsthand that his commitment to Arizona veterans is strong."

Carmona stood by his ad in a statement to the press.

"Sen. McCain is a leader I've always respected, even when I've disagreed with him, but Congressman Flake's record on veterans' issues is clear," Carmona said. "Congressman Flake has voted against health, education and job-training benefits for veterans. Congressman Flake even opposed the post-Sept. 11 GI Bill and combat bonuses for troops who were fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"I understand that Sen. McCain wants to support a member of his party, but his statement is a reflection only of his partisan politics and not the facts," Carmona continued. "Both Sen. McCain and Congressman Flake know this ad is accurate—and my campaign posted the source documents to this ad to back it up. Congressman Flake is trying to run away from his record, but the 12-year congressman is going to find that facts are a tough thing to hide from."

Team Flake, meanwhile, pounced on an Arizona Republic story that revealed Carmona had owned stock in tobacco companies while he criticized tobacco use as surgeon general in the George W. Bush administration.

Team Carmona told the Republic that the Democratic candidate had a broker who had included tobacco stocks as part of his portfolio, but that Carmona sold the stocks once he learned he owned them when he assembled his financial-disclosure statements for his Senate run.

Team Flake spokesman Andrew Wilder called the ownership of tobacco stocks "a major breach of trust with Arizona voters."

Team Carmona spokesman Andy Barr laughed off the attack.

"If that's the best they've got, we're in pretty good shape," Barr said.

Flake and Carmona will meet face-to-face for the first time next week. The two candidates—along with Libertarian Marc Victor—are scheduled for a one-hour debate next Wednesday, Oct. 10, that will be shown on KAET-TV in Phoenix, along with CSPAN and the PBS World channel for those of us not in the range of the Phoenix PBS affiliate.


BACKING UP BARBER

It's hardly an unbiased source, but earlier this week, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee released the results of a survey that showed Congressman Ron Barber leading his Republican challenger, Martha McSally, by 14 percentage points in the race for Congressional District 2.

The survey of 400 likely voters, conducted Sept. 27-30 by Grove Insight, showed that 54 percent like Barber, while 40 percent were behind McSally. Only 6 percent of the voters were undecided.

The survey also showed that Barber was viewed favorably by 51 percent of voters, and unfavorably by 32 percent. The numbers weren't as positive for McSally; 38 percent had a favorable impression, while 32 percent had an unfavorable impression.

The poll shows a larger lead for Barber than earlier surveys have. A July survey by Team Barber showed him with a 13-point lead, while an August poll by Team McSally showed Barber with a five-point lead.

Daniel Scarpinato, the former Arizona Daily Star reporter who now serves as a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said via email that the poll was skewed.

"Democrats know this poll is completely bogus," Scarpinato said. "If it were even close to accurate, then why are they planning to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in television ads beginning this week to distract from Ron Barber's record of walking lock-step with Nancy Pelosi?"

We're a bit skeptical about the size of the lead in the DCCC survey, but Barber is probably ahead. If it were a very close contest, we'd see the NRCC running ads here in Southern Arizona, as the political operation is doing for Republican candidates Jonathan Paton in Congressional District 1, and Vernon Parker in Congressional District 9.

Instead, as Scarpinato points out, we're seeing the House Majority PAC, an independent campaign committee supporting Democrats, come in this week with a TV ad hitting McSally.

Andy Stone, a spokesman for the House Majority PAC, tells The Skinny that the super-PAC is spending $150,000 to run the ad over the next week.

Stone said the political committee is spending the money to ward off future support for McSally by third-party groups as they move their money from supporting a flailing Romney campaign toward efforts to win the Senate and hang on to a majority in the House of Representatives.

In other CD 2 news: McSally picked up the endorsement of Republican Jim Kolbe, the former congressman who represented much of the area for 11 terms before retiring in 2006.

"I'm enthusiastic about the prospect of Martha McSally representing Arizona's 2nd District in Congress," said Kolbe in a statement. "At a time when Congress is so divided, we need someone who understands what it takes to get things done. Martha has that leadership experience; her life has always been about bringing people together to solve complex problems like the ones our nation faces today. She'll do a great job looking after our interests in Congress, and I am proud to endorse her."


MORE GOP SUPPORT FOR WRIGHT

Democrat Nancy Young Wright, who is running against Republican Ally Miller for the seat of retiring Pima County Supervisor Ann Day, has picked up another GOP endorsement: Republican Pete Hershberger, who served in the Arizona House of Representatives for eight years.

Hershberger said in a statement that when he and Wright served together, he "watched Nancy work to unite Southern Arizona's legislative caucus during a time when it was very difficult to attempt bipartisan work. I know her to be a courageous, hard worker who is connected to the entire community. Unlike her opponent, she does not seek to serve only a small, narrow segment of the citizens. We need someone on the Board of Supervisors who will represent everyone and make thoughtful decisions based on facts, not ideology."

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