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Flake leads both Dems in poll matchup

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Flake leads both Dems in poll matchup

Carmona bio unknown to most

  • Flake in 2009.
    republicanconference/FlickrFlake in 2009.

Republican Jeff Flake has a clear lead over both Democratic candidates in a new poll, which shows that the congressman has more name recognition than former U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona.

Flake, a conservative who represents Arizona's 6th District, leads both Carmona and former state Democratic chairman Don Bivens by 11 points, a poll released Tuesday showed.

Flake leads both Democrats 46-35 percent in hypothetical matchups, according to the survey by Democratic firm Public Policy Polling.

Long-shot GOP candidate Wil Cardon leads both Dems as well; he's up 38-32 on Bivens and 37-33 on Carmona.

Despite his lauded biography — Carmona's a longtime sheriff's deputy who performed a dramatic longline helicopter rescue; killed a man in a shootout; was awarded two Bronze Stars and two Purple Hearts while in the Special Forces in Vietnam; bucked the Bush administration while serving as surgeon general; and headed Pima County's health system while teaching surgery at the University of Arizona — Carmona remains unknown to most voters. 73 percent have no opinion of him, while just over 80 percent have no opinion of Bivens or Cardon.

The poll of Arizona voters, performed over the weekend, has a 3.6 percent margin of error.

"Flake has built his lead over Carmona up from 4 points to 11. Carmona's support has pretty much stayed in place — he was at 36 percent then and he's at 35 percent now. But Flake's support has increased from 40 percent to 46 percent," said PPP's Tom Jensen in an analysis of the poll:

Certainly part of Flake's early strength is superior name recognition. 66 percent of voters are familiar with him, compared to only 27 percent for Carmona, 19 percent for Bivens, and 18 percent for Cardon. Still 36 percent see Flake favorably to only 30 percent with a negative opinion, and those are pretty decent statewide numbers for a member of an unpopular Congress.

The race is likely to get closer. In the Carmona/Flake match up 23 percent of Democrats are undecided, compared to only 14 percent of Republicans. Once Democrats get on the same page Carmona's standing will improve. But there are two things a Democrat has to do to win statewide in Arizona: get crossover support from Republicans and win independents. Right now Carmona isn't really doing either- he's getting 10 percent of Republicans, but losing an almost equal 8 percent of Democrats to Flake. And he's tied with independents at 38 percent.


Because of their candidates' low profiles, more Democrats are undecided in all of these matchups than are Republicans, so the race will tighten up once Democrats have a nominee. Bivens and Carmona are also getting more crossover support than the Republican candidates are; they do no worse than a tie with independents, and they are pulling more Republican votes (8-11 percent) than vice versa (8-9 percent). They have to win considerable support from outside their party, since Republicans outnumber Democrats in this electorate by 15 points.

"Democrats could keep control of the Senate if they take this seat, but it'll be an uphill climb, even with Obama's coattails," said Dean Debnam, president of Public Policy Polling.

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