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Abe Hamadeh vs. Blake Masters
Abe Hamadeh vs. Blake Masters (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

Hamadeh vs. Masters: Can the Real Polling Please Stand Up?

The battle of the polls in Arizona’s Republican CD8 Congressional primary is heating up

By Christy Kelly, June 20, 2024 5:00 am

Republicans Abe Hamadeh and Blake Masters, who respectively vied (unsuccessfully) for Arizona Attorney General and U.S. Senator in 2022, have turned the GOP race for Arizona’s 8th Congressional District into an epic slugfest. While other candidates like former Republican congressman Trent Franks, Arizona House Speaker Ben Toma (R-27), and State Senator Anthony Kern (R-LD27) are also in the mix, the two frontrunners—once allies—now dominate the scene, consuming all the oxygen. Their fierce media battle has captured national attention, and just as it seems to peak, another head-scratching poll or explosive advertisement drops, further intensifying the drama.

On October 25, 2023, The Arizona Globe examined the first real poll conducted by National Public Affairs, a firm founded by former Trump officials. A three-way horse race poll showed Hamadeh at 31%, Masters at 24%, and Toma at 11%, with 34% of voters undecided. The poll did not include Franks or Kern and had a sample size of 301 people, with 75% likely Republican voters and 25% Independents.

By January, a Masters internal poll by Fabrizio, Lee & Associates, widely recognized for their political polling expertise, indicated a dead heat between Hamadeh and Masters, with both leading other candidates who were in single digits. This survey of 400 voters (84% GOP and 16% independent) also revealed that 53% viewed Masters as conservative compared to 43% for Hamadeh. Moreover, 90% of respondents had heard of Masters, with 47% viewing him favorably, while one-third had never heard of Hamadeh, although 38% responded favorably.

Both campaigns have leveraged the credibility of Trump-adjacent pollsters, placing them in the lead at some point. However, between February and May, Masters consistently ticked in multiple polls. Tony Fabrizio, one of the polling firm’s founders and a prominent figure in political polling, served as the Chief Pollster for four Presidential campaigns, most notably Donald Trump’s 2016 victory. Partner David Lee’s 24 years of experience was crucial as the lead pollster for Trump’s 2016 Florida campaign.

In April, Spry Strategies, funded by the Super PAC American Principles Project, conducted a poll that had Masters +10. By May, a Masters internal poll conducted by Fabrizio, Lee & Associates showed Masters with a +12 lead over Hamadeh. While the data was not released publicly, Blake provided an exclusive to another news outlet that parsed the numbers.

Undoubtedly, the barrage of negative, and as some would describe it, nasty, advertising against Hamadeh seems to be driving the numbers. Masters leaned into the narrative that “Abe dodges such questions [illegal immigration] because he personally benefited from, and is therefore compromised on illegal immigration.” Whether in debates, radio advertisements, street billboards, or television commercials, Arizonans could not escape the negative advertisements aimed at Hamadeh.

A spokesperson for Hamadeh told the Arizona Globe, “It’s pretty clear to me that the disgusting lies about a veteran and racist propaganda are backfiring. Our data shows Masters’ unfavorables continuing to rise.” If their data is correct, this could explain a sudden shift in polling. Hamadeh released an internal poll by The Strategy Group this month, giving him an 11-point advantage. The Ohio polling company boasts of helping Trump, five Republican Governors, and other notable figures. Strikingly, their website states, “Our expert pollsters will design and implement a polling strategy that asks the right questions to help you develop messages that move numbers.”

Undoubtedly, evaluating these internal polls requires a “grain of salt” perspective.

The Strategy Group, another respected polling firm, surveyed 620 likely Republican voters. The results showed 30% for Hamadeh, 26% undecided, 19% for Masters, 12% for Franks, 10% for Toma, and 3% for Kern. The group also specified that among “very conservative” voters, Hamadeh leads Masters 36%-19%, and among Trump Republicans, that lead grows to 46%-17%. The survey offered no additional metrics.

Blake Masters expressed disbelief at the Strategy Group’s latest polling numbers, telling The Globe, “Dishonest Abe is using misleading polls to try to reset the narrative. My poll, conducted by a reputable pollster, is accurate and aligns with every other recent poll in the race.”

A spokesperson for Abe told The Globe that the negative advertisements are not working, stating’ “Abe has been the frontrunner from the start, securing one of the earliest and most impactful endorsements in the nation from President Trump, and it’s no wonder his momentum is only growing stronger. Despite the pathetic and desperate attempts to tarnish Abe’s name with baseless lies, belittle his honorable military service, and comically pretend to have ties to ‘Trump world’ and its pollsters, it’s crystal clear that no sum of cash funneled from Tucson or Silicon Valley will ever let the Masters campaign purchase this Congressional seat.”

In this battle of polls and negative advertising, it seems the two campaigns are just getting started. With six more weeks ahead, we can expect a barrage of dizzying ads and more “internal” polls to spin.

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Christy Kelly
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