Sinema’s Plan

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema* (I-AZ) has yet to formally declare her intentions for re-election, but a report from NBC News suggests she already has a campaign plan in place. 

According to NBC, the Sinema campaign committee has prepared a two-page document intended for key donors. The prospectus details how the one-term incumbent will win the general election from the Independent ballot line.

The report begins with an explanation of her victory model in the 2018 race. Her consultants estimate that she received 18% of the Republican vote in her original Senate run when she was pitted against then-appointed incumbent Martha McSally (R). Current polling data reveals that the Senator’s favorability among Republicans is 34%, suggesting that a substantial number of conservative voters approve of her job performance.

The current Arizona voter registration figures reveal that 35% of the voting universe is registered in the Republican Party while 31% lie in the Democratic Party. Independents are actually the second largest, and fastest growing, Arizona voting segment. The non-major party affiliated registrants account for 34% of the Grand Canyon State voter universe.

The heart of the Sinema victory formula consists of scoring a large percentage within the Independent universe. The consultants calculate Ms. Sinema will need between 60-70% of the registered Independent/minor party base to position her on a credible victory path.

Her second strongest group would be Republicans, and she will have to pull better than the 18% she is estimated to have attracted in 2018. Her vote goal within the GOP segment would mean reaching at least 25%, and more likely moving into the 30-percentile range. The consultants are projecting a ten point window for her, 25-35%, which may prove high.

Despite winning her previous elections as a Democrat, Sen. Sinema’s consultants only see her pulling 10-20% from her former party’s base. This is a surprisingly low number considering her past popularity within the Democratic base. Prior to winning the Senate seat in 2018, she won three terms in the US House of Representatives and an additional three terms in the Arizona House of Representatives.

The numerical strategy is developed from the following framework as stated in the Sinema victory outline prospectus: “if the parties nominate extremists, as expected, Kyrsten will win a majority of IND, at least a third of REP, and a percentage of DEM voters – making her the first Independent to win a three-way statewide race in American history.”

The latter part of this statement is not true. The Senate has two other Independents (who caucus with the Democrats), Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Angus King (I-ME). While running for Vermont’s at-large House seat, Mr. Sanders won four statewide elections against both a Republican and Democratic candidate. Sen. King won both of his federal elections in a field that featured both a Republican and a Democrat.

The strategy, however, of labeling her eventual Republican and Democratic opponents as “extremists” is sound and certainly could boost her to the top position. If former gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake, or 2022 Senatorial nominee Blake Masters, were to win the 2024 GOP nomination, Sinema would get help from the media in labeling them as “extremists.”

The Democratic nominee will almost assuredly be US Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Phoenix). He is more liberal than Sinema, so she will have to develop an opportunity in order to push him further left, since she will get no help in this regard from the national or local media. Sen. Sinema then portrays herself as the “common sense centrist” candidate who is beholden to no party leader and has a record of delivering for the state.

Examining the ideological division within the Arizona electorate, her extremist contrast strategy, if implemented effectively, could work.

It is important to remember that all three of these candidates can win this election. In such a race, the winner will likely receive between 35 and 38% of the vote, meaning none will even get close to the 50% majority threshold.

The wild card Arizona Senate race will be the most difficult of the 2024 cycle races to predict, and will be so all the way to the November 5, 2024 general election

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