Poll: McCain ripe for primary challenge
© Greg Nash

Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainTrump knocks CNN for 'completely false' report Gaetz was denied meeting The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - Biden, lawmakers start down a road with infrastructure Sylvester Stallone reportedly joins Trump's Mar-a-Lago MORE (R-Az.) is unpopular with some conservatives in Arizona and holds only narrow leads over a field of potential challengers in a Republican primary, according to a new poll.

The Democratic firm Public Policy Polling released data on Tuesday that shows McCain, who will seek a sixth term in the Senate in 2016, deep under water in Arizona among voters who identify as “very conservative.”

Only 21 percent of those voters approve of the job McCain is doing, compared to 71 percent who disapprove. Overall, 41 percent of Arizonans say they approve of McCain’s job performance, against 50 percent who say they disapprove.

“Today’s political environment is challenging for all incumbents, but as recent election cycles have shown, candidates and campaigns matter,” said McCain’s communications director Brian Rogers. “John McCain’s strong record of defending America’s national security, standing up for veterans, and focusing on Arizona’s economic growth and job creation place him in strong position as he seeks re-election.”

Outside conservative groups are pushing Rep. Matt SalmonMatthew (Matt) James SalmonCOVID-19's class divide creates new political risks Arizona voters like Kyl but few think he'll stick around Former Sen. Jon Kyl to replace McCain in Senate MORE (R-Az.) to challenge McCain in the Arizona primary. In a head-to-head match-up, McCain edges Salmon 42 percent to 40 percent.

Rep. Dave Schweikert (R-Az.) has also reportedly been eyeing McCain’s Senate seat, and he trails by only one percentage-point, 40 percent to 39 percent.

State Sen. Kelli Ward (R-Az.), who has formed an exploratory committee ahead of a potential run, takes only 31 percent support against McCain, who takes 44 percent.

The potential challengers have low name recognition but high favorability ratings.

Only 52 percent of Arizona voters say they know who Salmon is, but 40 percent view him favorably, compared to only 12 percent who have a negative view of him.

Forty-seven percent of voters know of Schweikert, and his favorability rating is positive by a 15 percentage-point margin.

Still, McCain will be a formidable incumbent to unseat. He’s widely known throughout the state and hauled in $1.6 million in the first quarter of 2015, bringing his total cash-on-hand to $3.6 million.

Rogers noted that McCain crushed his Tea Party primary challenger, J.D. Hayworth, by 24 points in 2010. He also questioned the motives of the Democratic polling firm.

“In 2009 and 2010, several polls showed J.D. Hayworth in a dead-heat with John McCain, and Hayworth went on to get crushed by 24 points,” he said. “This latest poll comes from a Democratic-aligned polling firm with an obvious interest in trying to defeat Senator McCain – something Arizona Democrats have tried and failed to do for years.”

If McCain can make it through the primaries, he fairs better against a group of potential Democratic challengers in the general election.

McCain leads Fred DuVal (D-Az.), who lost the governor’s race in the state in 2014, 40 percent to 36 percent. He leads former U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona (D-Az.), and Reps. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Az.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Az.) by six points each.

The PPP survey of 600 Arizona voters was conducted between May 1 and May 3 and has a 4 percentage point margin of error.