If a recent survey of Arizona voters by Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling is right, Sen. Jon Kyl appears to have discovered what it's like to be on the wrong end of the Colbert Bump: His numbers in Arizona have tanked.
As most everyone who follows politics knows, Arizona's junior senator was widely ridiculed after a spokesman explained that a whopper Kyl told about Planned Parenthood on the Senate floor "was not intended to be a factual statement."
Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert seized on the line and began a nonstop Twitter campaign of nonfacts about Kyl, followed by #NotIntendedToBeAFactualStatement.
Kyl spokesman Ryan Patmintra eventually tried to defuse the controversy by saying that he'd released the absurd statement without Kyl's review and that, "in retrospect, (it) made no sense." In other words, the statement "it was not intended to be a factual statement" was itself not intended to be a factual statement.
The damage, however, appears to have been done. The PPP survey of 623 Arizona voters in late April showed that Kyl had the approval of just 42 percent of voters, while 46 percent disapproved of him. In a PPP poll in January, Kyl had the support of 47 percent of voters, while just 40 percent disapproved.
Kyl's support among Republicans has remained solid, but the big drop came among Democrats and independents he'd managed to win over. His support among Democrats dropped from 24 percent to 16 percent, while his support among independents dropped from 35 percent to 24 percent.
Public Policy Polling's Tom Jensen observed: "Generally, we find that when a politician announces their retirement—and (that announcement) is not because they're unpopular and doomed for re-election—their numbers go up as a sort of goodwill gesture from the voters. Not in Kyl's case."
Part of the reason that Kyl may have lost support from independents and Democrats involves the target of his attack: Planned Parenthood. Federal funding for the nonprofit organization remains popular among Arizona voters; only 35 percent want to see all federal funding for Planned Parenthood cut, while 51 percent oppose such a move.
Planned Parenthood's popularity does not extend to the GOP caucus at the Arizona Legislature. As we note in this week's feature story ("Battered State," Page 18), Republican legislators passed a number of bills that limit Planned Parenthood's offices in rural Arizona and make it harder for them to raise funds from Arizona taxpayers.
Sen. Jon Kyl's approval numbers may have taken a tumble, but they're nowhere near as bad as Sen. John McCain's standing with Arizona voters, according to the Public Policy Polling survey, which showed that McCain had the approval of just 34 percent of voters. More than half—53 percent—disapproved of the job McCain is doing, which leaves him as the second-least-popular senator, according to PPP surveys.
McCain is ahead of Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut. He could take some comfort in knowing that he was also ahead of Sen. John Ensign of Nevada, who resigned before the Senate Ethics Committee could complete an investigation into his philandering antics with the wife of a close aide, who got a big payoff and sweet job to go away.
McCain rubs 67 percent of Arizona Democrats the wrong way, and 58 percent of independents disapprove of him as well. We suppose that's what happens when you give up that maverick reputation and run as far to the right as you can.
McCain's past heresies have soured the GOP base on him, too. Only 44 percent of Republicans approve of him, while 40 percent disapprove.
While McCain's pandering to the Tea Party base has been pathetic to watch, we will give him credit for this: Last week, he didn't go along with the right-wing meme that torture was vital to uncovering the intelligence that led the U.S. to Osama bin Laden's Pakistani hideout.
"So far, I know of no information that was obtained, that would have been useful, by 'advanced interrogation,'" McCain told a Politico reporter last week. "I stand on the side of the United States and by the Geneva conventions, of which we are signatories, which we were in violation of by waterboarding."
While Kyl and McCain have seen their numbers tumble, Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is on the upswing since she survived an assassination attempt on Jan. 8.
Giffords is now the popular politician in Arizona, with 57 percent of voters having a favorable opinion of her, and just 17 percent having an unfavorable opinion, according to the PPP poll.
Giffords is viewed favorably by 81 percent of Democrats, 64 percent of independents and 36 percent of Republicans.
If she were to make a run for Sen. Jon Kyl's seat, she'd start out with a 7-percentage-point lead over Congressman Jeff Flake, the GOP frontrunner in the race to replace Kyl in 2012.
Even more impressive, Giffords would beat Republican Sarah Palin by 18 percentage points if Palin were to move to Arizona and run for the U.S. Senate. (BTW, PPP also found that 57 percent of Arizona voters would prefer that Palin not move here, while just 27 percent said they'd welcome Sarahcudda.)
We imagine a Giffords Senate candidacy remains a long shot, given the long road to recovery that she's on. And that's unfortunate for Democrats, given that the PPP shows Flake ahead of all the other Dems included in the survey, with the exception of former Attorney General Terry Goddard, who was tied with Flake.
While Giffords is on the mend in Houston (and preparing for another trip to Florida to see the delayed launch of the Space Shuttle Endeavour, which will be piloted by her husband, NASA astronaut Mark Kelly), her staff remains hard at work here in Tucson and in D.C.
The Skinny dropped by a reception for the winners of the annual Congressional Art Competition at Tohono Chul Park last Saturday, May 7. We'd like to extend congratulations to Beatrice Nielsen of University High School, whose ink-and-watercolor work "Stools" will be hanging in the Capitol building in D.C. for the next year.
There's an impressive collection of runners-up in the competition, which was open to high schools throughout Congressional District 8.
Some of their work remains on display in the gallery at Tohono Chul Park through mid-May, so if you're in the neighborhood, be sure to check it out. Or visit The Range, our daily dispatch, at daily.tucsonweekly.com, for a complete list of winners and examples of their work.
We caught up with CD8 community-outreach staffer Pam Simon, who oversaw the contest, at the reception. Simon, who was shot twice on Jan. 8, says she's got a lot more energy these days. But as she looked over the entries for the contest, she missed having a chance to share them with Giffords.
Simon told us that the entire staff shared a tearful moment last week as they were packing up to move to their new headquarters at 3945 E. Fort Lowell Road. At the end of the moving day on Thursday, May 5, they gathered in Gabe Zimmerman's office one last time to remember the slain staffer and have a good cry.
Follow the Skinny scribe on Twitter: @nintzel.