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Fierce Competition

National handicappers see McSally in peril, but she is still outraising all comers

It's been quite a week in the Trump White House.

President Donald J. Trump started to blow up the nuclear deal that the Obama administration struck with Iran, blew up the healthcare exchanges where middle-class Americans can buy health insurance and threatened to blow up NAFTA.

So where does this latest round of D.C. news leave Congresswoman Martha McSally, a Republican seeking reelection in one of the most competitive seats in the country?

The Cook Political Report moved the CD2 race into the Toss Up category. Cook handicapper David Wasserman said that McSally had built a solid image as a fighter for the A-10 Warthog and a moderate Republican, but "her vote for the House healthcare repeal bill may endanger her independent reputation and put her back in jeopardy."

Wasserman called Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick the frontrunner in the Democratic primary and said she was "running as an unabashed progressive defender of the ACA." But he noted that four other Democrats, including former state lawmakers Matt Heinz and Bruce Wheeler, former Assistant Army Secretary Mary Matiella and Hotel Congress manager Billy Kovacs are aiming to upset Kirkpatrick.

Wasserman called CD2 a "must-win race" if Democrats hope to take back the House. McSally herself described it the same way when talking with a group of bankers earlier this year, saying that CD2 was a pivotal race in the power struggle over control of the House and warning the bankers that if the election were held today, she would not prevail.

While that admission could have been just a calculated feint to persuade the bankers to open their checkbooks, the latest Public Policy Polling survey does show McSally's agenda is sometimes at odds with her district. The survey of 714 CD2 voters from Oct. 6 to Oct. 8 via robocall showed that in these polarized times, her voters are largely polarized, too, with 45 percent approving of her job performance and 47 disapproving. That puts her ahead of Trump, who has a 54 percent disapproval rating and a 42 percent approval rating. House Speaker Paul Ryan is even more unpopular, with two-thirds of the voters disapproving of his job performance and a 23 percent approval rating.

The poll showed that in a hypothetical matchup, McSally and Kirkpatrick were starting out tied, with 44 percent of those polled supporting the Republican incumbent and 44 percent supporting the Democratic challenger.

And McSally is already taking votes on another topic that's polling badly in her district: the GOP budget and tax plan. Having bungled healthcare reform, the tax plan is the last big chance for Republicans to say they're getting something done while in control of Washington. But the tax-cut plan is opposed by just over half the voters in the district and supported by just 32 percent. And when it comes to details, those numbers jump: 70 percent oppose tax cuts for the wealthy, while 64 percent oppose increasing the deficit. If those numbers are anywhere near accurate, it's more bad news for McSally, given that the plan's main feature is a gigantic deficit-funded tax break for America's wealthiest citizens. (We should note that Team McSally has previously knocked Public Policy Polling surveys as the firm tends to be hired by left-leaning candidates and organizations and got some key races wrong in 2016.)

McSally continues to build an impressive campaign warchest. The most recent FEC reports, covering activity through Sept. 30, show she has raised $2.7 million for her campaign and still had more than $1.4 million in the bank.

On the Democratic side, Kirkpatrick had the most in the bank at the end of September. She had raised $350,000 and still had $269,000 on hand.

Heinz came in second, having raised roughly $262,000. He had $200,000 left in the bank.

First-time candidate Matiella, who has won the endorsement of Congressman Raul Grijalva, had raised just over $93,000 and still had roughly $57,000 in the bank.

Kovacs, another first time candidate, has raised just over $20,000, including $7,500 of his own money. He ended the quarter with about $5,500.

Wheeler, a former state lawmaker and Tucson City Council candidate, was bringing up the rear with with a fundraising total of roughly $7,300, including $1,000 of his own money. He had about $2,000 left in the bank.

If you want to see what the CD2 Democrats are made of, Represent Me AZ is hosting a forum with all five of them at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 26, at Rincon High School, 421 N. Arcadia Ave. Doors open at 6 p.m. Skinny scribe Jim Nintzel will be your moderator.

The televised edition of Zona Politics with Jim Nintzel airs 6:30 p.m. Fridays on the Creative Tucson network, Cox Channel 20 and Comcast Channel 74. This week's guests are Strong Start Tucson campaign chair Penelope Jacks and Ward 3 Tucson City Council candidate Gary Watson. The TV show repeats Sunday mornings at 9 a.m. The radio edition of Zona Politics airs at 5 p.m. Sundays on community radio KXCI, 91.3 FM.


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