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Kelly's lead widens to 10 points in Arizona Senate race: poll

The Hill logo The Hill 9/16/2020 Morgan Gstalter
Martha McSally, Mark Kelly looking at the camera: Kelly's lead widens to 10 points in Arizona Senate race: poll © The Hill Kelly's lead widens to 10 points in Arizona Senate race: poll

A new poll shows that Arizona Democratic Senate nominee Mark Kelly has opened up a 10-point lead over Republican Sen. Martha McSally in one of the highest-profile and best-financed Senate campaigns of the 2020 election cycle.

Kelly, a former astronaut, earned the support of 52 percent of likely voters, according to a recent survey by OH Predictive Insights. McSally, by comparison, currently sits at 42 percent with less than 50 days to the general election.

According to the poll, Kelly is also showing an appeal to a small portion of Republicans. The survey found that 15 percent of Republicans support Kelly over McSally, while just 6 percent of Democrats are supporting the Republican incumbent over their own party's nominee.

Just last month, it appeared as though McSally was closing in on her Democratic challenger, narrowing his lead to only 5 points.

However, the new poll noted that it appears that most tentative Kelly supporters have "returned to his corner."

"Sen. McSally's barrage of attacks against Mark Kelly seemed to be working last month," says OHPI chief of research Mike Noble. "However, Kelly is now deploying his vast war chest to fight back, which is boosting his fortunes."

McSally is among the most vulnerable GOP Senate incumbents facing reelection this year, and virtually every recent public poll shows her trailing Kelly. She is currently the only GOP Senate incumbent to find her seat in the Cook Political Report's "lean Democrat" column.

She previously lost a 2018 Senate race to Democrat Kyrsten Sinema before Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) appointed her to temporarily fill the late Sen. John McCain's (R-Ariz.) seat.

However, Republicans argue that Kelly isn't invincible and have attempted to tie him to the "radical left" while attacking his business and investment record.

The poll released Wednesday was conducted before Kelly found himself in hot water last week after an offensive joke he made in 2018 resurfaced, causing him to issue an apology.

During a Q&A, Kelly was asked about physiological changes his brother Scott Kelly, also an astronaut, underwent after returning from space.

"It's gotten so bad that we recently had to release him back into the wild," Mark Kelly quipped, adding, "He's like halfway between an orangutan and a howler monkey. We've even changed his name to Rodrigo. He lives in the woods."

The footage was surfaced by businessman Moses Sanchez, a Republican who ran for mayor of Phoenix in 2018.

"He must think people named Rodrigo look like monkeys. Time to move past this type of racism & time for the media to scrutinize Mark Kelly more thoroughly like they would a Republican," Sanchez tweeted.

Kelly apologized for the comment in a statement to the Arizona Republic.

"My brother's year in space was really hard on him and we tried to bring some light to his difficult ordeal, but this comment does not do that and I apologize and deeply regret it," he told the newspaper.

The OH Predictive Insights poll was conducted Sept. 8 to Sept. 10 among 600 likely Arizona voters. It has a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

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