We can’t say we’re terribly surprised to learn today that Jesse Kelly will not running in Congressional District 2 later this year after losing to Democrat Ron Barber by nearly 7 percentage points.
Sure, Kelly said he was “absolutely” going to stay in the race before the election, but Kelly said many things during the campaign that weren’t true.
Kelly has now gone 0-2 in a GOP district. His negatives are huge; even if Public Policy Polling’s sample of the district was a bit off in the survey done right before the election, the numbers there were grim: 59 percent of the voters had an unfavorable view of Kelly, compared to the 37 percent who had a favorable view.
Part of that comes from the drubbing that Kelly took through the Democratic Party’s TV ads, but part of it comes from his general approach to politics. He is a very superficial candidate who can smoothly deliver talking points, but he can’t discuss any policy in any kind of depth. That’s why he avoided interview not only with the Weekly, but with the morning daily and other press outlets. By the time the weekend before the election arrived, Kelly was being kept under such tight wraps that he wouldn't make his campaign schedule public, outside a brief dog-and-pony show at his campaign office on Saturday morning.
(And how about Kelly's disastrous interview with KGUN-9? Admittedly, that meltdown was mostly the fault of his spokesman, John Ellinwood, but Kelly’s weird repeating of his talking points should be used in a classroom as an example of how to not deal with the media.)
At any rate, Kelly might have been competitive in the CD2 GOP primary, but as a general-election candidate, he had no path to victory. He would have struggled to raise funds and there was no way, given finite resources, that the National Republican Congressional Committee was going to pour more money into a Kelly campaign this fall. The D.C. establishment has given Kelly support twice now and it has nothing to show for it. There was not going to be a third time.
The focus now turns to Republican Martha McSally, who will be facing Barber (unless state lawmaker Matt Heinz manages an unlikely upset in the August Democratic primary.)
As we mention in this week’s story on the election, McSally is a former Air Force fighter pilot who made her political debut in the CD 8 special-election primary. She came in second to Kelly in that four-person race, winning 25 percent of the vote to Kelly's 35 percent.
McSally does not have all of Kelly’s extremist baggage, but she’s entering a district that’s much more favorable to Democrats than the old CD8. While Republicans hold a voter-registration advantage of about 6 percentage points in the current Congressional District 8, both parties have about 34 percent of the voters in the new Congressional District 2, with independents making up most of the remainder of the voters.
While we haven’t run the numbers ourselves, we’re told by Dem sources that in the areas of CD8 that remain in the new CD2, Barber won 53 percent to 44 percent. As for the new parts of CD2, Obama won 67 percent of the vote in 2008, so it’s not GOP-friendly territory.