AZ-Sen: Tilting Back and Forth

Of all the US Senate nomination battles around the country in this election cycle, none has been polled more often than the Arizona Republican US Senate primary. Since early May of 2021, a total of 29 publicly released polls have been conducted, with the latest again detecting a lead change.

The Battleground Connect organization tested the Grand Canyon State GOP Senate field (7/17-18; 800 AZ likely Republican primary voters; live interview) and found businessman Jim Lamon catapulting back into the lead over venture capitalist Blake Masters and Attorney General Mark Brnovich. The spread is 33-28-16%, and represents the second time Mr. Lamon has placed first in the five publicly released July polls.

Most recently, the advantage is seesawing between Messrs. Lamon and Masters with AG Brnovich generally registering a distant third. Since April, both Lamon and Masters have each topped the field in seven published surveys. The Arizona primary is next Tuesday, and the polling volatility suggests that we will see a close finish. The GOP winner then challenges Sen. Mark Kelly (D) in November in what promises to be one of the nation’s key races to determine which party claims the Senate majority in the next Congress.

The original leader was Mr. Brnovich, who led in the first eleven polls. He began the race with the highest name identification after winning two statewide races for Attorney General. He lost the lead in a March poll that the Fabrizio Lee & Associates firm conducted before regaining the edge in two other surveys. Mr. Brnovich then trailed again in April and has not again placed first. Since that time, heavy spending from both Messrs. Masters and Lamon has eclipsed AG Brnovich’s early momentum.

Though the pollsters have been heavily active here, the Republican political donors are less so. Of the $15.1 million that Mr. Lamon reports receiving, $14 million of that total has come in the form of a loan from himself according to the pre-primary Federal Election Commission disclosure filing that the candidates filed through the period ending July 13.

Mr. Masters has raised just under $4.3 million, including a candidate loan of almost $450,000, but the bulk of the spending backing his campaign has come through a Super PAC funded by German-born billionaire Peter Thiel. It is estimated, that this entity will spend in the $10 million realm to promote Mr. Masters, who also earned an endorsement from former President Donald Trump.
For his part, Mr. Brnovich has attracted $3.1 million, almost of all which comes from individual donors. All of the totals, however, pale in comparison to Sen. Kelly’s receipts, who again is one of the most prolific of all Senate fundraisers. Through the same period, the incumbent has raised over $54 million, all from individuals and political organizations. In the 2020 special election that first elected him, Sen. Kelly raised an incredible $101 million, and is on track to reach such a total again.
Though the polling lead has gone back and forth between Messrs. Lamon and Masters, until this last Battleground Connect study and the Cygnal poll taken just before (7/12-13; 419 AZ likely Republican primary voters; interactive voice response system & text) that projected Mr. Masters as having the advantage (30-20-18% over Messrs. Lamon and Brnovich), no contender had broken out of the 20s.
We can expect to see several more polls released between now and next Tuesday, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see more lead changes. This volatility certainly means the Arizona GOP nomination contest is still very much undecided, and we will likely see a close outcome on August 2. 
At that point, the winner will have to quickly unite the party behind his candidacy, and then face a much tougher battle in a shorter period of time against Sen. Kelly. The stakes are high in the Arizona race, and the last few days will likely cast the die for what we expect to see in the coming general election campaign.

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