New Poll: McCain’s re-election prospects are rocky

New Poll: McCain’s re-election prospects are rocky. U.S. Sen. John McCain has been bracing for a tough re-election battle and a new poll from a Democratic firm released Tuesday indicates the veteran Arizona Republican’s political predicament. McCain, who is seeking a sixth, six-year term, led state Sen. Kelli Ward of Lake Havasu City 39 percent to 26 percent, according to a poll that asked about the Aug. 30 primary race, and three other GOP challengers — “tea party” conservatives Alex Meluskey and Clair Van Steenwyk and political unknown Scott McBean — cumulatively took 9 percentage points. Another 27 percent was undecided. In a head-to-head match-up against Ward, which now seems unlikely, McCain and Ward were tied at 41 percent, the poll said. Regarding the general election race, McCain would narrowly lead U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, this year’s likely Democratic Senate nominee, 42 percent to 36 percent with 23 percent not sure. The numbers don’t total 100 percent because of rounding. Ward would lead Kirkpatrick by a tighter 37 percent to 35 percent with 28 percent “not sure.”

The numbers mean trouble for McCain, 2008 Republican presidential nominee, the pollsters said in their written analysis of the poll results.

“John McCain’s going to have a hard time getting through the Republican primary,” said Dean Debnam, president of Raleigh, N.C.-based Public Policy Polling, the Democratic company that conducted the automated telephone survey of 896 Arizona voters Friday through Sunday. “Thirty-nine percent isn’t a good place to be. And even if he does survive Kelli Ward, the general election’s likely to be tough for him, too.” McCain’s re-election campaign immediately dismissed the poll, which had margins of error of plus or minus 4.7 percentage points for the GOP sample and plus or minus 3.3 percentage points for the entire sample. “We put zero stock in a partisan Democrat poll that is obviously aimed at boosting John McCain’s opponents in the primary and general elections,” McCain campaign spokeswoman Lorna Romero said. “And even if you took this bogus poll at face value, it actually shows McCain in a stronger position today than PPP’s last poll, with his favorability up eight points since March.”

According to the latest PPP poll, 52 percent disapproved of McCain’s job performance while 34 percent approved of it, with 14 percent not sure. “John McCain has always known this will be a tight race — that’s why he’s built a strong campaign that’s ready for any challenge this November,” Romero added in her statement to The Arizona Republic. National Democrats on Tuesday seized on the new poll. “After decades in Washington, it’s clear that Arizonans — including Arizona Republicans — believe John McCain has changed and no longer represents them,” Sam Lau, a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman, said in a written statement.

Nowicki is The Republic’s national political reporter. Follow him on Twitter at @dannowicki and on his official Facebook page.