by Jim Nintzel
Yet another new poll this week from Public Policy Polling shows U.S. Sen. John McCain leading GOP challenger J.D. Hayworth:
Republican primary voters in Arizona are down on John McCain, with a majority of them thinking he's too lenient on immigration and a plurality feeling that he's too liberal in general. But his saving grace may be that the candidate trying to exploit those weaknesses is J.D. Hayworth, who begins the race with high negatives. As a result McCain leads with 46% to 35% for Hayworth and 7% for Jim Deakin.
Hayworth actually leads McCain 46-38 with conservative voters. But McCain's 60-15 advantage with moderates is so overwhelming that it allows him the double digit lead.
McCain's overall numbers with primary voters are nothing to write home about. 45% disapprove of his job performance to 44% who approve. 43% think he's too liberal to 38% who think he's about right. 53% think he's too lenient on immigration to 32% who think he's about right.
But conservative voters in particular are down on him on
all of those fronts right now. 46% of them disapprove of him with only 41% approving. 59% of them think he's too liberal to 30% who think he's about right. And 67% of them think his views on immigration are too lenient to only 26% who think they're about right.
For all that McCain still has to be seen as the favorite in the race. 40% of GOP primary voters have an unfavorable opinion of Hayworth to 37% with a favorable one. With moderates in the party his favorability is a putrid 13/59 spread, which explains why he trailed Rodney Glassman in our general election polling yesterday. Voters beyond the far right just don't find him very palatable.
This is certainly a race to keep an eye on and McCain's situation strongly resembles where Charlie Crist was about 4-5 months ago before he completely collapsed in the Republican primary. The difference may be Marco Rubio vs. J.D. Hayworth though. Rubio started as a relative unknown to GOP voters in Florida and was able to build a positive image of himself to capitalize on the increasing discomfort with Crist. Hayworth starts out as well known but not well liked and voters who don't like him or McCain give the incumbent a 17 point advantage, seeing him as the lesser of two evils. Unless Hayworth can change voters' existing feelings about him McCain will probably survive.
Here are some more details:
John McCain actually trails with conservative voters in his quest to win the Republican nomination for another term in the Senate, but his broad lead with moderates gives him the overall advantage over former Congressman J.D. Hayworth.
McCain has 46% to 35% for Hayworth and 7% for Jim Deakin. Hayworth is up 46-38 on McCain with the conservatives who make up two thirds of the primary electorate, but that’s more than offset by McCain’s 60-15 lead with moderates in the party.
Both candidates are viewed unfavorably by more GOP primary voters than favorably. 45% disapprove of the job McCain is doing to 44% who approve, while 40% have an unfavorable opinion of Hayworth to 37% with a positive one.
It’s clear that some of McCain’s past issue stances are creating suspicion about him among conservative voters. 53% of those likely to vote in the primary say that McCain’s position on immigration is too lenient. And a 43% plurality think that McCain is overall too liberal compared to 38% who think he’s ‘about right.’
“John McCain’s clearly in a weak position with Republican voters,” said Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling. “The good news for him is that J.D. Hayworth comes into the race with a whole lot of baggage. That should really help McCain’s prospects for renomination.”
Looking ahead to the 2012 Republican primary for President, Mitt Romney is the early favorite in the state with 27%. Newt Gingrich comes next at 19%, followed by Sarah Palin at 13%, Mike Huckabee at 12%, and Ron Paul at 9%. Romney has a wide lead among moderates but just a small one with conservatives.
PPP will finish up Arizona week tomorrow with numbers on the GOP primary for Gov.
PPP surveyed 387 Republican voters from April 23rd to 25th. The margin of error for the survey is +/-5.0%. Other factors, such as refusal to be interviewed and weighting, may introduce additional error that is more difficult to quantify.
Here's the whole poll: PPP_Release_AZ_428.pdf