Poll: Republican holds 10-point lead in Arizona special election

Poll: Republican holds 10-point lead in Arizona special election
© Screenshot/Arizona's NBC 12 News

Republicans are in a strong position weeks out from Arizona’s House special election, with the party’s nominee holding a sizable 10-point lead, according to a new poll shared first with The Hill.

A survey from Phoenix-based polling firm OH Predictive Insights and ABC15 Arizona found former state Sen. Debbie Lesko (R) garnering 53 percent of the vote, compared to physician and first-time candidate Hiral Tipirneni (D) with 43 percent.

Arizona’s special election has captured some national attention as Republicans look to avoid another upset by Democrats in a district that President TrumpDonald John TrumpSasse: Trump shouldn't dignify Putin with Helsinki summit Top LGBT group projects message onto Presidential Palace in Helsinki ahead of Trump-Putin summit Hillary Clinton to Trump ahead of Putin summit: 'Do you know which team you play for?' MORE won by 21 points in 2016. The election will be held on April 24 to replace ex-GOP Rep. Trent FranksHarold (Trent) Trent FranksJordan weathering political storm, but headwinds remain Freedom Caucus bruised but unbowed in GOP primary fights Eric Schneiderman and #MeToo pose challenges for both parties MORE, who resigned from the seat in December after allegedly discussing paying a staffer to carry his child.

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Democrats have been overperforming in GOP strongholds, most recently winning a special election in a Pennsylvania district that Trump carried by 20 points. But Arizona’s 8th District trends even more toward Republicans: the GOP has a 17-point voter registration advantage, the district is overwhelmingly white and 45 percent of the voting-age population is 55 or older.

“The GOP is in a prime position for a much-needed win as we head into the midterm elections,” said Mike Noble, managing partner and chief pollster at OH Predictive Insights and a GOP strategist in Arizona. “With such a heavy GOP registration advantage, this race appears a bridge too far for Democrats.”

National Republican groups have committed at least a half-million dollars, though they’re confident they’ll be able to hold the district. The Republican National Committee invested $300,000 in canvassing efforts late last month, while the National Republican Congressional Committee and Congressional Leadership Fund have both spent six figures on the race.

Meanwhile, there’s been less investment from national Democrats. The Democratic National Committee (DNC) has done some texting efforts and digital ads to boost Tipirneni's campaign. The Arizona Democratic Party has received a five-figure grant from the committee as part of the DNC's State Party Innovation Fund.

But Democrats see the poll as evidence that they can start to close the gap in a district that went big for both Trump and Franks.

“Arizonans are fed up with the chaos and dysfunction with Washington, and with Debbie Lesko, they see her as the rubber stamp to that agenda," said Drew Anderson, a spokesman for the state Democratic Party. "On top of her numerous campaign scandals, Lesko wants to cut Medicare, Social Security, and healthcare access for Arizonans. Voters are looking for someone who will get things done and put Arizona first, and that’s Dr. Hiral Tipirneni.”

According to the poll, Tipirneni has benefited slightly more from crossover voters. The Arizona Democrat has the support of 14 percent of Republicans, while Lesko has captured 10 percent of Democrats. Plus, Tipirneni has a 12-point edge with independent voters and a strong lead over voters who describe themselves as moderate.

Still, Lesko has a strong grip on the base in a district that skews heavily Republican. More than two-thirds of voters with a high school diploma or less back the Arizona Republican. She also has a majority of support from voters who have college degrees or at least some college education. Tipirneni leads by 10 points among post-graduates, or voters who have more than a bachelor’s degree.

“When the Democrat is up 12-points with independent voters and up by 40 points with self-identified moderate voters, that points to a problem in expanding their base for the GOP this election year,” said Noah Rudnick, a data analyst at OH Predictive Insights.

Arizona is a heavy vote-by-mail state, with early voting having been in full swing since March 28. Of the poll’s 500 respondents, 75 percent — or 373 voters — have already cast a ballot.

Of the 373 early voters, Lesko is leading Tipirneni by 12 points, 56 percent to 44 percent.

For those who haven’t voted yet but plan to cast a ballot, Lesko and Tipirneni are tied at 42 percent each. Sixteen percent of those likely voters are still undecided.

The poll was conducted April 11 and surveyed 500 likely special election voters. The margin of error was 4.38 percentage points.

Updated at 6:40 p.m.