Confirming indications of a building Republican "wave" this fall, polls now show Democrat Rep. Raul Grijalva in a dead-heat with his little-known challenger in Arizona's 7th District. Politico reports that the Congressional Hispanic Caucus is now directing campaign cash to help Grijalva against insurgent GOP candidate Ruth McClung.
A big part of Grijalva's problem is that earlier this year, the incumbent Democrat joined those calling for a boycott of Arizona after the state passed a tough law aimed at curbing illegal immigration. Grijalva may have expected that stance would endear him with voters in the 7th District -- where about half of voters are Hispanic -- but it appears to have backfired disastrously. Polls show the Arizona law is popular, while Grijalva's support for a boycott was seen as harmful to the economy of a district suffering with high unemployment.
Fifty percent of 7th District voters say they're ready to dump Grijalva, while McClung -- an attractive young physicist who works for a rocket engineering firm -- has begun capturing national attention.
Late Sunday night, I spoke to a Republican pollster in Arizona who had conducted a 7th District poll early last week and couldn't believe the result: McClung actually leading by 2 percentage points. So he polled the district again and got similar results. Now those surprising findings have been confirmed by the Magellan Strategies poll that struck alarm among Democrats. Independents in the district are breaking strongly toward the Republican, a Tea Party favorite who is also supported by about a fifth of voters who identify as Democrats.
Polls indicating a surge for McClung have had an important effect: Arizona's two Republican senators, John McCain and John Kyl, have reportedly started directing campaign donations and other resources toward the 7th District campaign. Within the next week, McClung's candidacy is expected to gain $100,000 worth of Republican support, in addition to a steadily increasing stream of online small-donor contributions from grassroots conservatives eager to defeat Grijalva, who is co-chairman of the Progressive Caucus.