by Jim Nintzel
Public Policy Polling delivers the latest numbers on the race to replace U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl:
Republicans look to be in pretty good shape for holding onto Jon Kyl's Senate seat. GOP front runner Jeff Flake leads both of his Democratic opponents, Richard Carmona and Don Bivens, by identical 11 points margins at 46-35. Wil Cardon, a long shot for the Republican nomination, leads both Democrats as well. He's up 38-32 on Bivens and 37-33 on Carmona.
These numbers are pretty similar to what PPP found polling Arizona in November with one exception- Flake has built his lead over Carmona up from 4 points to 11. Carmona's support has pretty much stayed in place- he was at 36% then and he's at 35% now. But Flake's support has increased from 40% to 46%.
Certainly part of Flake's early strength is superior name recognition. 66% of voters are familiar with him, compared to only 27% for Carmona, 19% for Bivens, and 18% for Cardon. Still 36% see Flake favorably to only 30% with a negative opinion, and those are pretty decent statewide numbers for a member of an unpopular Congress.
The race is likely to get closer. In the Carmona/Flake match up 23% of Democrats are undecided, compared to only 14% of Republicans. Once Democrats get on the same page Carmona's standing will improve. But there are two things a Democrat has to do to win statewide in Arizona: get crossover support from Republicans and win independents. Right now Carmona isn't really doing either- he's getting 10% of Republicans, but losing an almost equal 8% of Democrats to Flake. And he's tied with independents at 38%.
With the candidates pretty anonymous at this point things could change a lot over the next nine months, but for now Jeff Flake is the clear favorite to be Arizona's next Senator.