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INSIGHTS INTO THE ARIZONA POLITICAL MIND

A new survey of Arizona voters backs up what The Skinny observed last week while reviewing some polling data released by Democrat Fred DuVal's gubernatorial campaign: The governor's race is up for grabs.

Public Policy Polling's survey of political attitudes in Arizona was loaded with interesting tidbits, but when it came to this year's governor's race, it mostly showed that most voters just aren't paying attention to the candidates yet. A full 34 percent said they didn't know who they would vote for in the GOP primary.

Here's where the candidates who registered a pulse in the body politic stand: Secretary of State Ken Bennett has the support of 20 percent of voters; attorney and political newcomer Christine Jones comes in second at 16 percent; Mesa Mayor Scott Smith was at 12 percent; disbarred attorney Andrew Thomas was at 9 percent; and State Treasurer Doug Ducey was at 6 percent. State Sen. Al Melvin was down at the bottom with somewhere around 1 percent, which put him even with the gadflies no one has ever heard of.

Those are soft numbers, though, and may have more to do with name recognition than anything else. Ducey, for example, has a lot of establishment support and has raised more than a million dollars, so his numbers will climb as he starts spending that money.

If you did a little deeper, you note that most of the potential GOP candidates need to work on improving their image with the voters. While most voters don't know enough about the candidates to form an opinion, those who have formed opinions don't think too much of the choices. Check out these favorable/unfavorable numbers: Ducey is at 11% favorable/20% unfavorable; Bennett is at 12% favorable/24% unfavorable; Thomas is at 13% favorable/29% unfavorable; Melvin is at 4% favorable/ 22% unfavorable; and Jones is at 9% favorable/15% unfavorable.

The only one who isn't underwater is Smith, whose 15% favorable/13% unfavorable rating puts him right about level with DuVal, who was at 13% favorable/14% unfavorable.

In general election matchups, DuVal was running more or less even with the Republican candidates.

In the latest bit of bad news for Attorney General Tom Horne, the survey also showed that in a repeat of his matchup against Democrat Felicia Rotellini, the Republican incumbent would only get 36 percent of the vote to Rotellini's 42 percent. Horne has been dogged by scandals over the past year and still has to win a primary race against former prosecutor Mark Brnovich before he can face Rotellini in the general election.

The survey also showed that Arizonans were steadily evolving on the question of gay marriage. Nearly half of those surveyed—49 percent—said it should be legal, while 41 percent were opposed.

When asked if they supported either gay marriage or civil unions, a full 77 percent said they were in favor legally recognizing gay unions in some fashion. Only 19 percent said there should be no legal recognition of a gay couple's relationship.

Arizona voters amended the Arizona Constitution to ban gay marriage in 2008. The proposition passed with the support of 56 percent of the voters.

Finally, it appears voters are none too happy with Arizona's U.S. senators. Sen. John McCain has the worst approval-disapproval numbers among all the senators that Public Policy Polling has surveyed, with only 30 percent of voters approving of his job performance and 54 percent disapproving. McCain is disliked across the board, with 55 percent of Republicans, 53 percent of Democrats and 55 percent of independents unhappy with him.

Sen. Jeff Flake has problems of his own, with only 27 percent of Arizonans approving of the job he's doing and 47 percent disapproving. He's doing a big better with Republicans than McCain—only 27 percent disapprove of his job performance—but 71 percent of Democrats and 49 percent of independents disapprove of the job he's doing.

The survey of 870 Arizona voters between Feb. 28 and March 2 had a margin of error of 3.3 percent.

THE NRCC'S GENERIC ATTACKS

In the wake of last week's congressional hearings on whether the IRS targeted Tea Party political groups, the National Republican Congressional Committee sent out a flurry of attacks on Democratic members of Congress.

The language in the email was identical, with names changed for individual members of Congress.

For example, The Skinny got three separate copies of the release aimed at U.S. Reps. Ron Barber, Ann Kirkpatrick and Kyrsten Sinema.

The release stated that that "(Fill in the blank) has joined his/her Democratic colleagues in opposing legislation aimed at reining in the IRS, preventing abuse, and holding the IRS accountable for targeting the political beliefs of individuals."

"'(Fill in the blank) continues to 'plead the Fifth' on Obama's IRS scandal and has failed to protect the political beliefs of Arizonans,' said NRCC Communications Director Andrea Bozek. 'The IRS is already a deeply mistrusted government agency, yet (Fill in the blank) has remained silent and refused to hold the IRS accountable.'"

Let's leave aside the unlikely notion that Bozek actually repeated those words, over and over again, while changing the name of each of the House Democrats who were targeted by this mailer. Hey, it's politics—phony canned quotes are as common as empty campaign promises.

But the email blast also cited three bits of legislation—and Barber voted with Republicans on two of those three bills. (Incidentally, Sinema also voted in favor of two of the three bills.)

NRCC spokesman and former Arizona Daily Star reporter Daniel Scarpinato said the email blast was not inaccurate even though Barber supported two of the three bills cited.

Scarpinato said that the votes that Barber took against HR 2009 "does, in our view, back up the point that Barber's opposed efforts to rein in the IRS and hold them accountable."

Scarpinato added that the release "was not attempting to suggest that Barber voted for those other two bills. They were simply to show all the votes that were taken. Some Democrats voted for those bills and some against. We tried to be careful in the language in those citations not to suggest that Barber actually voted against them. ... Looking at in the future, we'll try to be more clear."

While it's true that the releases cited a generic "Democrats voted..." lead-in to the list of criticized votes, Team Barber strategist Rodd McLeod called Scarpinato's comments "a ridiculous bunch of spin."

"They included three votes and Ron voted with the Republican majority of two them," McLeod said. "And they attacked him for voting against accountability for the IRS when he voted for that accountability."

The NRCC frequently sends out cut-and-paste attacks against Democrats in Congress in which they use the same press release but just change the names of the member of Congress.

Scarpinato said he didn't believe the cut-and-paste approach led to any sloppiness in this case.

"We try to be really careful to make sure these things are accurate and its something that works in each district," Scarpinato said."

But he conceded that he had seen moments when cut-and-paste attacks have been inaccurate.

"I have seen that occur and remember making fun of people for doing it when I was a reporter," Scarpinato said.

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