Elections Modeler Changes Arizona Senate, Key House Race Ratings to ‘Leans Democrat’

Forecaster says court ruling and ballot measure aids Democrats in battleground state’s Senate and House races, but notes no change in Trump-Biden ‘Toss-Up.’
Elections Modeler Changes Arizona Senate, Key House Race Ratings to ‘Leans Democrat’
Thousands of protesters march around the Arizona Capitol after the Supreme Court decision to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion decision on June 24, 2022, in Phoenix. The Supreme Court on Friday stripped away women’s constitutional protections for abortion, a fundamental and deeply personal change for Americans' lives after nearly a half-century under Roe v. Wade. The court’s overturning of the landmark court ruling is likely to lead to abortion bans in roughly half the states. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
John Haughey

Arizona Democrats, with a timely assist from the state’s Supreme Court, have successfully positioned abortion to be a top 2024 campaign issue, a strategy they hope will benefit party candidates in close races in this and other battleground states nationwide.

According to the latest algorithmic modeling posted by Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball, that gambit may be paying off.

While the elections forecaster has not adjusted its “Toss-up” statewide electorate rating—meaning the presumed showdown between former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden remains a “Toss-up”—Sabato’s Crystal Ball, on April 17, adjusted its electorate ratings in one of the state’s nine U.S. House districts and revised its U.S. Senate race forecast.

The presumed general election clash between Republican Kari Lake and U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) for retiring U.S. Sen. Krysten Sinema’s (I-Ariz.) seat shifts from “Toss-up” to “Leans Democratic” under Sabato’s rating update.

Sabato’s electorate rating for the state’s Congressional District 6 (CD 6) moves from “Leans Republican” to “Toss-up,” with Rep. Juan Ciscomani (R-Ariz.) facing a Democrat challenger gaining momentum.

Two of six Arizona GOP House incumbents now face “Toss-up” re-elections. Rep. David Schweikert’s (R-Ariz.) odds to return to Congress in 2025 were already a “Toss-Up.”

“The two new developments that pushed us to make these changes are the increased importance of abortion rights in the state following a blockbuster state court decision last week as well as recent Democratic fundraising strength in both races,” Sabato’s analyst Kyle Kondik wrote.

The Arizona Supreme Court ruled 4-2 on April 8 that an 1864 law banning abortion except to save the life of the mother is enforceable, doing away with a 2022 law that allows abortions up to 15 weeks.

According to an April 11-12 Data For Progress survey of 1,207 likely Arizona voters, 66 percent said they disapprove of the ban. Of those who identified as Democrats, 82 percent are opposed, while 66 percent of Independents and 49 percent of Republicans said they disapprove. Nevertheless, efforts in the state Legislature to repeal it and endorse the 2022 law—including on April 17—have not advanced.

The Supreme Court ruling came a week after Arizona for Abortion Access announced that it had exceeded the threshold to place a proposed constitutional amendment on the Nov. 5 ballot. The amendment aims to enshrine abortion access until “fetal viability,” or about 24 weeks, in the state’s constitution.

Arizona for Abortion Access, a coalition that includes the ACLU of Arizona and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona, is seizing on the Arizona Supreme Court ruling to galvanize supporters to get to the polls, a strategy that has proven a winner for Democrats since the 2022 midterms.

Since the July 2022 Roe repeal, voters have affirmed constitutional amendments protecting abortion access in four states (California, Michigan, Vermont, and Ohio) and denied attempts to restrict access in three states (Kansas, Kentucky, and Montana).

Arizona joins New York state, Florida, and Maryland as states where voters will see November 2024 ballot measures to protect or expand abortion rights.

Efforts to put similar measures before voters are underway in seven other states: Colorado, Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Missouri, Arkansas, and Nevada, a “battleground state” like Arizona where Nevadans for Reproductive Freedom is near-certain to get an abortion rights measure before voters in November.
“While voters can and often do split their tickets on such ballot measures, we can’t imagine a major ballot fight over abortion rights would hurt Democratic turnout efforts in the state, and it very well could help,” Mr. Kondik states in his analysis.

Revision No Surprise

Sabato’s Crystal Ball, an electoral ratings and elections forecasting laboratory established in 2002 by Larry Sabato, the director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, is among the algorithmic modelers that analyze trends in presidential, congressional, and gubernatorial races.

Others include The Cook Political Report, Inside Elections, RealClear Politics, and 270 To Win. None of these modelers and forecasters have adjusted their ratings, yet, in the wake of the unpopular Supreme Court ruling.

However, most had already called it as Sabato now sees it. The Cook Political Report rates the Trump-Biden, Lake-Gallego, and the two congressional races as “Toss-ups.”

Inside Elections and 270 to Win also rate the presidential and senate races in Arizona as “Toss-ups,” with Inside Elections giving Messrs. Schweikert and Ciscomani “Tilt Republican” odds of winning reelection.

Sabato’s rating revisions also come as no surprise to Arizona Republican campaign consultants who told The Epoch Times in the ruling’s wake that it would spell trouble for GOP candidates.

Arizona Supreme Court Justices William G. Montgomery (L), John R. Lopez IV (2nd L), Vice Chief Justice Ann A. Scott Timmer (C), Chief Justice Robert M. Brutinel (3rd R), Clint Bolick (2nd R), and James Beene (R) listen to oral arguments in Phoenix on April 20, 2021. (Matt York, File/AP Photo)
Arizona Supreme Court Justices William G. Montgomery (L), John R. Lopez IV (2nd L), Vice Chief Justice Ann A. Scott Timmer (C), Chief Justice Robert M. Brutinel (3rd R), Clint Bolick (2nd R), and James Beene (R) listen to oral arguments in Phoenix on April 20, 2021. (Matt York, File/AP Photo)

“This certainly will impact a lot of the races and, you know, two days ago, I would have put Arizona as ‘Lean Trump’ and now I think I would put this as ‘Lean Biden,’” Phoenix-based Marson Media CEO Barrett Marion said.

President Trump won Arizona by 3.5 percent in 2016 and President Biden won the state by 0.3 percent in 2020. President Trump has been polling 5 percentage points ahead of President Biden in Arizona surveys.

“Our ‘Toss-up’ rating for Arizona in the presidential race remains unchanged,” Mr. Kondik writes in his Sabato’s analysis. “Arizona could potentially be the decisive state for president in the fall; it is also a vital state to watch for both the House and the Senate.”

Arizona Republican Kari Lake speaks before a large crowd of supporters in Scottsdale, Ariz., on Oct. 10, 2023. (Allan Stein/The Epoch Times)
Arizona Republican Kari Lake speaks before a large crowd of supporters in Scottsdale, Ariz., on Oct. 10, 2023. (Allan Stein/The Epoch Times)

Lake, Ciscomani, Schweikert

While polling has shown President Biden trailing President Trump in Arizona, other Democrats are faring better in the state, he said, or while President Trump is polling well, fellow Republicans are not.

“Gallego has often led Lake [in polls], although there hasn’t been much polling of the Senate race lately. Still, we could see Gallego doing a little better than Biden, just like now-Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) did in 2020,” Mr. Kondik said.

The latest poll—RABA Research’s March 28-31 survey of 503 registered voters—showed Mr. Gallego leading Ms. Lake 36-28 percent, with nearly a third of voters undecided.

Sabato’s said fundraising reports “nudged us further” in downrating Republicans’ prospects in the Senate and two House races.

While Ms. Lake “had a decent” January-March fundraising quarter, banking $3.6 million, Mr. Gallego drew $7.5 million in contributions, Sabato’s said.

“More importantly, Gallego has an almost 4-to-1 cash on hand advantage, $9.6 million to $2.5 million for Lake,” Mr. Kondik writes, noting the emergence of abortion as a campaign issue hurts Ms. Lake’s campaign because she “has a hard-right reputation that she is going to need to tone down, in all likelihood, in order to win.”

In a 5-minute April 11 video posted on social media platform X, Ms. Lake endorsed President Trump’s April 8 abortion policy statement that the issue should be left to states, that he supports access when a mother’s health is in danger and for victims of rape and incest, and that he would not sign a national ban if Congress presented him with one.

“We, as American people, don’t agree on everything all of the time but if you look at where the population is on this, a full ban on abortion is not where the people are,” Ms. Lake said. “The issue is less about banning abortion and more about saving babies. And we can do that.”

Ms. Lake’s alignment with President Trump’s relatively moderate abortion stance may help voters forget she expressed support for the 19th-century ban while running for governor in 2022, but the Gallego campaign and Democrat strategists are certain to constantly refer to her flip-flop, Mr. Kondik surmised.

The abortion issue made revising CD 6 as a “Toss-up” electorate from “Leans Republican” an easy decision, he said. The “Leans rating was probably too generous in the first place, and the same factors that apply to Lake also apply to Ciscomani—the increasing interest in abortion rights probably does not help him as a Republican” even though he has spoken out against the 1864 law.

First-term Mr. Ciscomani faces a strong challenge from former state Sen. Kirsten Engel in a rematch from their 2022 race he won 50.7-49.3 percent.

Mr. Ciscomani and Mr. Schweikert in CD 1 are among 18 House Republicans elected in 2022 in congressional “cross-over” districts won by President Biden in 2020.

Although 50.4 percent of the 2020 vote was cast by Republican-registered voters, President Biden won Mr. Schweikert’s district by 1.5 percent.

President Biden won Mr. Ciscomani’s district by 0.1 percent in a 2020 election where 50.7 percent of ballots were cast by registered Republicans.

The first-time incumbent’s return to the House in 2025 is “a truly 50-50 proposition,” Mr. Kondik said.

John Haughey is an award-winning Epoch Times reporter who covers U.S. elections, U.S. Congress, energy, defense, and infrastructure. Mr. Haughey has more than 45 years of media experience. You can reach John via email at [email protected]