Martha McSally has pathway to victory (Kelly leaves race)

| June 15 2012
Christopher Cook

From the Hill:

Republican Jesse Kelly, who lost Tuesday’s special election to replace former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), will not run again in the regular election against Rep.-elect Ron Barber (D-Ariz.).

“Looking at the results from Tuesday, we have decided to withdraw from the race for Congress in AZ-02 and to seek other opportunities,” Kelly said in a statement. “I will forever be thankful to our generous supporters and volunteers.”

This puts retired Air Force Col. Martha McSally in the drivers seat on the GOP side. Kelly had the advantage of having been known to the voters as a result of his run in 2010, but he faced a stiff headwind in the special election. The Republicans had a slight registration advantage in the district, but the Democrats turned out heavily for the former aide of the well-liked Giffords.

McSally won’t have the name recognition advantage Kelly enjoyed, nor will she have the GOP registration advantage, as the new district for the general elections slightly favors the Democrats. She will, however, have another potential advantage.

Consider this . . .

Things are not shaping up well for Obama at the moment. In fact, there is an argument to be made that he has begun a slide from which he will not recover. So, imagine that on the weekend before the general election, polls are showing Romney clobbering Obama. The Democrats’ enthusiasm, already flagging, is further dampened. Then, on Election Day, we start seeing exit polls and results come in from the eastern states. Romney takes New Hampshire, Ohio, and North Carolina. Then he takes Florida, and it’s still close in Pennsylvania. Then (as the polls are already showing he has a chance to do), Romney takes Michigan. From that moment forward, Democrat turnout across the rest of the country craters. Democrat after-work voters in Arizona don’t turn out because they know Obama’s reelection is a lost cause. Republicans keep turning out throughout the last couple of hours in Arizona.

This turnout-dampening effect is a real thing—people keep turning out for the expected winner, but on the other side, some will decide to skip it if they feel sure there’s no hope. That’s part of how human nature manifests itself in elections.

The new district leans Democrat, but not so much that different turnout scenarios can’t make a difference. McSally has a definite pathway to victory. Granted, some of it depends on events at the top of the ticket, which are outside of her control. But the way that things are shaping up—and assuming Obama doesn’t have some surprise coming—this race could go decidedly against Obama and for Romney, helping lots of Republicans in down-ticket races, especially in Western states. Kelly could find himself wishing he had stuck it out, and McSally may find herself in Washington come January.

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