CD8 Special Election Politics

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Political consultant Wes Gullett and pollster Mike O’Neil talk about the outcome of the special election to fill former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’ empty seat in Congress and what it says about the current political environment.

Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm ted Simons. Republican Jesse Kelly says he will not run for congress this fall. This after Kelly lost Tuesday's special election to Ron Barber in a race to complete the remainder of Gabrielle Gifford's' congressional term. It's the second time in less than two years that Kelly has failed to win that seat. Had Kelly decided to run again, he was expected to face a tough primary battle in the newly drawn congressional district 2. Some are looking at Ron Barber's six-point victory over Jesse Kelly as an early indicator of November's general election. Others aren't so sure. I recently talked about the implications of Tuesday's vote with pollster Mike O'Neil of O'Neil and associates, a Tempe-based public opinion research firm. And political consultant Wes Gullett, a partner in first strategic, a phoenix-based communications and public affairs company. And thanks for joining us tonight on "Arizona Horizon." let's get right to this. Mike, the results of CD 8, the special election, surprise?

Mike O'Neil: The margin was a little bit of a surprise. I thought it would be a little closer. But I look at that in conjunction with Wisconsin, and I look back over the last couple of election cycles. It says to me, '06 and '08 were tidal waves for the Democrat, 2010 was a tidal wave for the Republicans. We are getting a lot of mixed messages, I think, what it signals is 2012 liable to be somewhere in between.

Ted Simons: You saw this as a bellwether election.

Mike O'Neil: Yeah.

Ted Simons: You are seeing what?

Mike O'Neil: This was a bellwether election. I saw split decision.

Ted Simons: What did you see out of that vote?

Wes Gullett: I saw the same thing. I think it's the enthusiasm factor that carried Barber over the top. And that enthusiasm factor on Election Day, when you had gabby Gifford's standing there with him, if anybody was on the fence, they swung over to Barber's side. And that, I think that's what happened with Wisconsin, too. That enthusiasm factor carried Walker over the line. So what we are seeing is, when people get excited, then, anything can happen.

Ted Simons: Are we also seeing kind of a, a fair play question? Where Walker was elected. You were talking about removing an elected official from office. Gabrielle Gifford's was elected. You are talking about removing who she would like to see fill out her term for office. Was fair play at play here?

Wes Gullett: I think there were big hurdles for the opponents to overcome. And people, the Republicans got really excited about Jesse Kelly especially after Wisconsin. But the boomerang started back. I really think there's going to be a boomerang effect throughout this election, and we are starting to see it now.

Ted Simons: What do you think? Boomerang effect make sense to you?

Mike O'Neil: I think this election I think was nationalized. Most of the discussion was Obama care, and Nancy Pelosi, and is Jesse Kelly too extreme and tea party and all that? I think it's almost time to put tip O'Neil to bed. All politics is national. That's what we saw here and that's what we saw in Wisconsin as well.

Wes Gullett: But Barber did try to come back to, he was the constituent service guy. He was the local guy who had been there for the people. He tried to pull back to that and I think that helped him in the end a lot. Because he wasn't making it as the national kind of figure. So he went back to the basics for him, which was constituent service.

Ted Simons: Now, the same area much of the same area moves into a different congressional district in November for that vote which was coming up awfully quickly. Ron Barber will barely have time to get his seat warm. He's running again. Jesse Kelly is on the ballot again. What do you see?

Wes Gullett: There's going to be a primary. This Mcsally lady is very strong, too. She is going to do very well in the primary and people might, the Republicans might have said, look, we've gone with Kelly three times. Let's go with somebody else and try a new strategy and see if that will work. So the primary is not in the bag for Kelly.

Ted Simons: Martha Mcsally seems to be a name everybody thinks is on the rise.

Mike O'Neil: Especially in the last 48 hours. Had Kelly won, I think she would be out of the picture. But having been beaten twice, I would expect that a lot of Republicans will be looking and saying, can we put up a stronger candidate? This new district is slightly -- well, both districts are very competitive but the new district is slightly more Democratic.

Ted Simons: With the new district slightly more Democratic what does that say to the Republican challenger, who the Republican challenger should be, and it seems to be Ron Barber as the opponent?

Wes Gullett: I predicted Jesse Kelly would win, so Yogi Bera says, never predict especially when you are talking about the future. I am a little bruised still but I think it's going to be tough, an uphill battle for the Republicans. But depending on what happens in the state and if Obama completely leaves the state and it also depends on what happens in that senate race. If Carmona is doing well, Ron Barber will win in a cakewalk.

Ted Simons: The whole down ticket aspect with that race and other races in Arizona, what do you see?

Mike O'Neil: I think the hidden thing that relates to the senate race and this race and even the presidential race is, are the Democrats able to put together a very significant Hispanic registration and get out the vote operation? Often promised, never delivered, but there were some signs in the Pierce recall and in the Valenzuela race in the city council that maybe they can actually, maybe there's enough feeling out that they can pull it together but that's a mighty big if.

Ted Simons: It's a huge if. We hear that every election. Is that something that you think, is it groundswell happening or is that again mostly talk?

Wes Gullett: I don't think that you should bet the farm on that. But Carmona is a very attractive candidate. He is going to be basically the top of the ticket in that senate race. That could really, that could have enormous positive impacts downstream and the senate committee, the national Democratic senate committee will come in with money if they think Carmona can save the party for them. There could be a lot of money spent in Arizona even without a presidential race.

Mike O'Neil: I think it's all about who votes. If you go back again to the difference between '06 and '08 and 2010, most people didn't change their votes but what changed a whole lot was which constituencies came out to vote. It's about turnout.

Ted Simons: In Wisconsin, it was about obviously public unions seemed to be the major factor there. That is something may -- how much does that play into a presidential election and conversely, down in Tucson, a tea party candidate running against a kind of an anointed candidate from Gabrielle Gifford's? Where does the attempt stand? Where do things like unions stand in this upcoming election? Can we learn anything?

Mike O'Neil: The firefighters in phoenix, I am hard pressed to find out where the union power in this state. There are people that like to run against it but other than the firefighters in phoenix, can't seem to find it.

Ted Simons: I am not saying necessarily that would be an issue here. What I'm saying is if you saw the left kind of with the unions, you saw the right with the tea party. And neither side did all that well here in these recent votes.

Wes Gullett: Well, the tea party, in southern Arizona, Jesse Kelly's problem was he didn't do nearly as well as he should have been, Cochise county, very conservative county. Only won by 2,000 votes. You have got, you have got to really maximize your victory in the places that you are supposed to win. And when you don't, you are not going to be able to project a victory over time. There was a big turnout, too. Considering there was only one thing on the ballot. We got to give some credit to the people of southern Arizona for coming out and voting in that election. So -- and in a presidential election you are going to have 100% turnout. It isn't that way but it really is. You are going to have, I think that this election in Arizona is really going to come down to that senate race.

Ted Simons: Interesting. All right. Good stuff, gentlemen. Thanks for joining us. We appreciate it.

Wes Gullett:Political consultant; Mike O'Neil:Pollster;

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