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Conservative group says Giffords/Kelly race tied

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Conservative group says Giffords/Kelly race tied

  • Kelly and Giffords
    Kelly and Giffords

Incumbent Democrat Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and Republican challenger Jesse Kelly are tied in a poll commissioned by a conservative group.

Giffords leads by one point in the head-to-head matchup, 45-44 percent, and the two candidates are tied, 46-46 percent, when voters who are undecided but lean one way or another are included.

The poll, performed and funded by groups with close ties to the Republican Party, surveyed a group that is somewhat older than the district's demographic. The polling firm says that the voters who will turn out in an off-year election will be older and more conservative than the general pool of registered voters.

The poll shows the power of a incumbent's name recognition. 52 percent have a favorable opinion of Giffords, against 33 percent for Kelly.

41 percent have an unfavorable view of the incumbent, with 25 percent holding that view of her challenger. But 19 percent haven't formed a judgment on Kelly, and 22 percent say they've never heard of him. Just one percent haven't heard of Giffords.

"This poll confirms what I have been hearing directly from the voters as I walk door-to-door," Kelly said in a press release. "Gabrielle Giffords has lost touch with Southern Arizona and is no longer working for the residents of her district. She is more interested in bailing out Wall Street than she is in bringing jobs to Arizona. Voters support our plans to grow the economy and to implement real solutions that will lower the cost of healthcare coverage."

"Jesse Kelly labels Medicare a 'waste.' He wants to 'eliminate' Social Security. He calls for a 23-percent sales tax that would raise taxes on 80 percent of working families in order to lower them for millionaires," said Anne Hilby, Giffords' campaign spokeswoman. "Elections are about choices and when Southern Arizonans get to know Jesse Kelly, the choice before them in November will be crystal clear."

The poll of 400 likely voters was conducted last week by the Republican polling firm Ayers and McHenry Associates Inc. of Alexandria, Va. It was commissioned by the GOP-oriented American Action Forum, which was set up earlier this year to market conservative policies.

Those surveyed skew older than the average resident of the Eighth Congressional District.

81 percent of those surveyed were older than 50, with 45 percent aged 65 or older. According to the Census Bureau's American Community Survey, 30 percent of CD 8 residents are older than 55, with just 18 percent aged 65 and older. 14 percent are between 45 and 54 years old.

While a breakdown of the ages of registered voters in the district isn't available from the Arizona Secretary of State, and the Pima County Recorder's Office couldn't provide that information Friday afternoon, information from the Giffords campaign shows that most voters in CD 8 are older than the average resident.

25 percent of CD 8 voters are between 18 and 40, 35 percent between 41 and 64, with 40 percent over age 65, said Hilby.

"Likely voters, not registered voters, is what you need to survey in an off-year election," said Whit Ayers, the head of Ayers and McHenry. "Republicans and older people are far more likely to turn out."

Ayres is the co-founder of Resurgent Republic with former Republican National Committee Chair Ed Gillespie. That group also advocates for right-wing policies.

The American Action Forum is run by Douglas Holtz-Eakin, who was John McCain's policy chief during his 2008 presidential run. The group's board also includes McCain fundraiser Fred Malek, Jeb Bush, GOP Sen. Norm Coleman, former Maine Gov. John McKernan, former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge and other Bush cabinet members.

"This bias of the polling firm is evident," said Hilby. "It's like George W. Bush’s cabinet sprinkled with John McCain’s top consultants."

The poll's questions weren't formed in the most neutral fashion. Many questions are targeted more at learning Giffords' potential weaknesses than offering a comprehensive view of the race.

"That's what we were doing the poll for, to find out the weaknesses of the Democratic incumbents," said Ayers.

The poll didn't include questions to determine the strengths and weaknesses of Republican challengers, including Kelly, Ayers said.

Sample questions

Do you think Gabrielle Giffords deserves reelection as congresswoman, or do you think it is time to give someone else a chance? (44 percent said reelection, 50 percent said time for someone else)

What is the single biggest reason you might not vote for Gabrielle Giffords that you do not hear discussed often by the media? (Responses were not provided)

Which of the following statements comes closer to your view:

  • a. Gabrielle Giffords's time in Congress gives her the needed experience and power in Congress to give our district a strong voice in Washington.
  • b. Gabrielle Giffords's time in Congress means she cares more about staying in power than about listening to her constituents.
  • (51 percent agreed with A, 40 percent with B)

Another groups of questions includes such GOP buzzwords such as "ObamaCare" and "bailouts for Wall Street."

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