The Skinny

A Tale of Two Polls

NBC survey puts McCain out way ahead, while Public Policy Polling shows a tight race with Kirkpatrick

So where is the race between five-term U.S. Sen. John McCain and his Democratic challenger, Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick?

Two recently released polls tell very different stories: An NBC/Wall Street Journal/Marist Poll shows McCain with a huge 19-point lead over Kirkpatrick. The survey of 946 registered voters, taken between Sept. 6 and Sept. 8, showed that 57 percent were supporting McCain, while 38 percent were supporting Kirkpatrick.

But a Public Policy Polling survey of 837 likely voters, taken between Aug. 26-28, showed McCain and Kirkpatrick knotted up at 43 percent apiece.

Clearly they can't both be right—but they could both be wrong. The NBC poll used live callers, while PPP used robocall technology, so the edge goes to NBC in that respect. But a 19-point lead is much higher than other polls that have surveyed the race and given McCain, on average, a 13.7-point edge over Kirkpatrick, according to Real Clear Politics averaging of surveys. That's in line with a 13-point edge that a CNN poll gave McCain in a mid-August survey.

Team McCain has generally been dismissive of PPP surveys, with spokesperson Lorna Romero discounting the firm as a left-leaning operation used by Democrats that produces "fake" and "bogus" polls.

Team Kirkpatrick, meanwhile, was critical of the NBC poll.

"This poll is a complete outlier, and its sample is in no way representative of the likely voters in this race," Kirkpatrick spokesman D.B. Mitchell said via email. "Laughably, it has John McCain with a 5-point lead among Latino voters—despite McCain trailing that demographic by double digits. ... In reality, McCain's support among Latino voters is cratering because of his unwavering support for Donald Trump and his brazen attempts to portray his immigration position differently in English and Spanish. Arizona voters want a new, principled voice in the U.S. Senate not a consummate Washington politician, and that's why McCain's Washington backers and his Super PAC have been forced to spend millions of dollars to prop him up in a desperate attempt to save McCain's political career."

Team McCain swung back with a response from Romero via email saying that although Kirkpatrick "has spent her three unremarkable terms in Congress siding with her party bosses at every opportunity, Arizonans either don’t know her or don’t support her record of serving as a rubber stamp for the liberal establishment."

“In English and Spanish, John McCain has consistently championed the need for a secure border and immigration reform," Romero continued. "John McCaIn is honored to have the support of so many in Arizona’s Hispanic community, and he’s always worked to advance the priorities of growing Arizona’s economy, supporting small businesses, ensuring all children have access to a quality education, ​protecting our nation from terror threats, ​and reforming our broken immigration system.”

Whatever the numbers are, both McCain and Kirkpatrick are running full steam. In the wake of his big win in the primary, McCain has adopted the narrative that he would stand as a check against President Hillary Clinton—which suggests that he isn't counting on Trump winning in November. (McCain seems increasingly irritated by questions about his endorsement of Trump; in a recent exchange with reporters, he said he hadn't been paying attention to Trump's weird embrace of Putin, whom McCain dismissed as a "murderer and a thug.") He's also hammering away at Kirkpatrick for her support of Obamacare and the Obama administration's nuclear deal with Iran.

Meanwhile, Kirkpatrick has continued with her narrative that McCain's embrace of Trump shows that McCain has changed. And she got a bit of good news recently when one insurer, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, has agreed to sell policies on the Obamacare online marketplace in Pinal County, where residents were briefly left without options after Aetna announced it was withdrawing from the Arizona market.

Kirkpatrick's best hope is that Arizona voters turn on Trump and bring down McCain in the process. Trump is struggling here: Both the NBC poll and the PPP survey show a tight race. NBC had Trump up by 1 percentage point, 42 percent to 41 percent, while PPP showed Trump up by 3 percentage points, 46 percent to 43 percent.

Fare and Balanced

Tucson City Council to consider bus fare increases, again

The Tucson City Council is once again grabbing the third rail of Tucson politics: bus fares.

The council last week heard from city staff about an analysis of the impact of various proposals to increase bus fares. Without getting too deep into the various formulas that were under consideration, all three proposals would pass muster with federal authorities, as none of them resulted in "disparate impact to minorities or disproportionate burden to low-income populations."

Raising the bus fare has long been something that council members have been reluctant to do.

But fares only bring in between 20 percent and 25 percent of the cost of operating the transit system (as is typical of transit systems everywhere; if they were profitable system, the private sector would run them). Most of the remaining bill is paid from the city's general fund, which also funds the police and fire departments, the courts, the parks and rec programs and many of the other services that the city provides.

The cost of the transit system has been climbing in recent years. In the 2011 fiscal year, the city paid about $34.7 million out of its general fund to subsidize the transit system. In the 2015 fiscal year, that number had jumped by about $8 million, to $42.7 million.

There are various factors driving that increase, including a decision by state lawmakers to divert lottery dollars that use to help with transit costs. But city staff has long pushed for bus fare increases and council members have mostly resisted. The last increase was in 2011, when fares went from $1.25 to $1.50.

Now city staff is looking to increase the base fare by a dime next summer and another 15 cents in summer 2018, with other discounted fares having various hikes.

The council is set to decide the issue at its next regularly scheduled meeting, Tuesday, Sept. 20. If past history is any guide, you can expect a big turnout from the Bus Riders Union to oppose any fare increases.