There are ten days until Election Day, and political pundits are closely tracking ballot trending as early voting comes to an end next week. For months leading up to the General Election, many cautioned of a “Blue Wave,” due to motivated Democrat voters. But it appears the wave may not reach shore as the Republican early ballot advantage is exceeding expectations.
“What we know so far at this point, to sum it up, is that turnout so far is extremely high,” said George Khalaf, president of political polling firm Data Orbital. “It’s very close to what we’d expect in a presidential year, like 2016. But, Republicans are on track to actually perform as they do in midterm years, which is obviously very well. So right now, as of Thursday, the Republican ballot advantage is at 11.2 percent.”
According to Khalaf, the “blue wave” has not emerged in Arizona, a trend that is consistent across the state. “Even in the bluest of areas like Pima County, Congressional District 3, Congressional District 7, very consistently Republicans are out-performing what you’d expect to see in a presidential year,” Khalaf said. “We’re seeing really high turnout. But, Republicans are doing it in much larger margins, particularly the Republicans that aren’t likely to vote. And that’s a key statistic for folks to focus on. Those that have never voted in the last four elections or have only voted one out of the last four elections, there’s about a four or five percent advantage in every single congressional district for Republicans over Democrats of those ballots that have been requested to be returned.”
Khalaf noted how these statewide trends are impacting legislative races, causing local political pundits to reconsider ratings.
“We actually did about eight rating changes earlier this week and all of them in the Republican favor,” Khalaf said.
But what about this idea that new Democrat voters will head to the polls on Election Day, rather than submit an early ballot?
“I suppose it could happen,” Khalaf said. “That’s not normal. That hasn’t tracked in any presidential or midterm year up until this point. So, I think it’s fairly unlikely and that’s why, you know, I’m pretty bullish at this point that Republicans hold the state Senate and it could be with the exact same margin that they have today, which is a 17/13 split.”
But the race that has the most attention across the state, and even the nation, is the battle between Congresswoman Marth McSally (R) and Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema (D) for Senator Jeff Flake’s U.S. Senate seat. Khalaf admits that his polling has been much more pessimistic, at least on Republicans, but the early voter data shows that pollster will need to adjust their turnout models.
“We did have a poll last week that showed Congresswoman Sinema was up by four percent. It was more pessimistic than a handful of other public polling that’s been put out. And that was assuming a closer to Democratic surge scenario model. So, now obviously, I think we’re going to have to revisit it in light of the numbers that we’re seeing so far.”
Although many have the race in the “tossup” category, Khalaf thinks the race seems to be leaning to the right because of the turnout numbers.
“I think the big question will be two major demographics and to watch for what happens them: Who wins the independents? And is there enough Governor-Ducey-voting-Republicans that choose to vote Democrat in the U.S. Senate? Obviously, not a very common thing for someone to vote for a Republican in one statewide race and a Democrat for the other. Those are the two people to watch.”
According to Khalaf, Sinema has to outperform in areas where Hillary Clinton performed well versus President Trump, specifically the suburban affluent areas.
“In Legislative District 28 and central corridor in Paradise Valley, District 18 in Ahwatukee and Chandler, District 17 in Chandler. In districts where Governor Ducey right now is, more likely than not, going to win against David Garcia by 15-20 percent. So, she literally has to do the inverse.”