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Poll: Barber has strong lead in CD8

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Poll: Barber has strong lead in CD8

Voters have overwhelming negative view of Kelly

  • Barber
    Mariana Dale/TucsonSentinel.comBarber
  • Kelly
    Will Seberger/TucsonSentinel.comKelly

A poll released Monday said Democrat Ron Barber "appears to have the race pretty much locked up" as Southern Arizona voters give him a 53-41 edge over Republican Jesse Kelly.

The two, along with Charlie Manolakis of the Green Party (who gets the nod from 4 percent), as vying to see who will fill the seat left vacant when Gabrielle Giffords resigned from Congress.

Barber is well liked by voters, according to the survey by Public Policy Polling, who give him a 54/38 favorability rating. Voters overwhelmingly—59 percent— have a negative opinion of Kelly; just 37 percent have a positive view of the candidate who narrowly lost the 2010 contest to Giffords.

Most likely voters—57 percent—say they've already cast their ballots, with Barber having a 58-37 lead among that group. Of those who say they'll cast their vote at the polls on Tuesday, Barber's lead falls from 21 points to a 46-45 split, PPP said.

"The only poll that matters is tomorrow," said Barber campaign spokeswoman Jessica Schultz.

"Our campaign is going to be working ... to make sure that people come to the polls, and turn in their ballots," she said Monday.

Kelly faces an uphill battle with nearly every demographic group, PPP said:

Barber's winning 90 percent of the Democratic vote, while Kelly's getting just 82 percent of Republicans. Barber also has a 51-34 advantage with independents. Barber's advantage is pretty thorough along demographic lines- he leads with men, women, whites, Hispanics, and voters in every age group.

One final note: 67 percent of voters in Giffords' district have a positive opinion of her to only 24 percent with a negative one. There aren't many special House elections where the departing incumbent has a 67 percent favorability rating, and that fact makes this a very difficult one for the GOP to win.

Kelly campaign spokesman John Ellinwood called the survey "totally invalid."

"The sample population is all off; it's not reflective of CD8," he said Monday. 

Ellinwood said the poll over-sampled Democrats. 42 percent of those who said they were likely voters in the race identified themselves as members of Barber's party. Republicans made up 36 percent of those surveyed, and independents were 22 percent.

Kelly's spokesman said the poll was done by  "left-leaning firm" that's seeking to attract attention.

"If they were boring results, they wouldn't put them out," he said.

"Our indicators are that we're up a few points," he said. Ellinwood said the campaign's polls are "internal info—we're not really releasing it."

Schultz declined to discuss Barber's internal campaign polling.

While Public Policy Polling is a Democratic firm based in North Carolina, the firm's surveys are generally solid. The poll in the CD8 race, which was not paid for or authorized by any campaign or political group, questioned 1,058 likely voters on Saturday and Sunday. It has a margin of error of 3 percent.

"Democrats are likely to win this race comfortably tomorrow," said Dean Debnam, PPP's president.

"But the unusual circumstances of the contest make its relevance to any other contest later this year pretty limited. It’s not often you have a special election to replace an incumbent who resigned with a 67% favorability rating," Debnam said.

Democrats are highly motivated to see Giffords, who resigned in January to focus on her recovery from the Jan. 8, 2011, shootings, replaced by her former district director. Barber was wounded along with his former boss and 11 others in the shooting spree that killed six people.

From PPP:

We find that the likely electorate for tomorrow's election supported Barack Obama over John McCain 50-44. McCain actually won the district by a 48-42 margin in 2008. This, along with the special election in New York's 26th Congressional District last May, is one of only two races recently where we've found a likely electorate significantly more Democratic than the Presidential one in 2008, and it suggests Democrats are unusually motivated to come out and vote to keep Giffords' seat in their hands.

Despite the likely Democratic victory tomorrow Barack Obama's approval rating in this district is only 44%, with 50 percent of voters disapproving of him. And even though Barber leads by 12, likely voters only say they want Democrats to have control of Congress by a 48-44 margin. That's an unusually large gap between the horse race and who voters want to have control, and again speaks to the unusual circumstances surrounding this race.

Barber spent the weekend attending a series of campaign events with Giffords, who convinced him to seek the seat when she stepped down.

Kelly, under fire over an endorsement by anti-illegal-immigration group ALIPAC, didn't tell the press about any weekend campaign stops. ALIPAC has been tied to white supremacist organizations, and has been called a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Kelly sought the group's endorsement in 2010, and has refused to answer questions about ALIPAC's giving him an endorsement this year.

"We don't really have any specific public events" scheduled Monday or Tuesday, Ellinwood said.

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