Boosted by her signature on the new law aimed at illegal immigrants, a new poll shows incumbent Gov. Jan Brewer has taken a commanding lead over three key Republicans who want her job.
The Rasmussen Reports survey conducted Monday found Brewer backed by 45 percent of the 541 likely Republican primary voters questioned. That is more than the combined total of her foes.
It also is a sharp increase from the same survey a month earlier — before she signed SB 1070 — where Brewer was the favorite of just 26 percent; in March she was at just 20 percent.
Some of Brewer’s gain came at the expense of John Munger, former president of the Arizona Board of Regents. He saw his numbers slide from 18 percent in April to just 3 percent.
Munger dismissed the new survey as meaningless, saying the volatility proves it is inaccurate.
He said, though, he also is a victim of the media. More specifically, he said scant attention has been paid to the GOP primary — and to him in particular.
“It’s very hard to get any media covering the campaign,” Munger said. At the same time, Brewer “has been basking in the benefit of incumbency,” getting a lot of free exposure by signing new laws.
But some of Brewer’s newfound popularity comes as the number of undecided Republicans went from 24 percent in April to just 13 percent now.
Pollster Earl de Berge, who runs the Behavior Research Center, said he doesn’t necessarily approve of the survey methodology used by Rasmussen — and of the specific numbers that it produced.
He said, though, the trend should not be surprising. He said Brewer recently has acted in ways to convince many Arizonans she is a strong leader.
Part of that, de Berge said, is Brewer’s signature on SB 1070. The measure requiring police to check immigration status of those they stop for other reasons is very popular in Arizona.
But de Berge said Arizonans also have noted the hostility that has come from outside the state — right up to the White House — and see her taking a stand against it.
Potentially more significant, he said, she benefitted from the campaign for Proposition 100, and not only because she was the chief public drum-beater for the temporary one-cent hike in the sales tax.
Of note, de Berge said, is that Brewer was almost alone in her support of the higher tax for more than a year. And she did not back off, even in the face of strong opposition from members of her own party.
“She has addressed, in that (sales tax) vote, one of the issues that had plagued her: whether or not she was a strong leader capable of getting something done,” de Berge said.
“She advocated this position from the beginning and managed to pull it off,” he continued, both in getting the Republican-controlled Legislature to call a special election and convincing two-thirds of voters to support the levy. He said the bump in her popularity “probably addresses more her issues as a leader than anything on the immigration thing.”
State Treasurer Dean Martin, whom the new poll found with just 18 percent support, said that sales-tax stance is eventually going to bite the governor. He said her push for higher taxes is out of step, at least with the Republicans who will decide her political fate at the August primary.
He acknowledged that the measure could not have passed without the support of at least some GOP voters. But Martin said that should not be seen as support for her budget solutions.
“Given a choice between laying off teachers and raising taxes, they’re OK with it,” Martin said. He said voters told him they felt there were no other options.
Martin said his campaign will show there are alternatives, including his own plans to cuts health care costs by requiring co-pays and restructuring the state’s long-term debt.
He agreed the Brewer has benefitted from both being the incumbent and her signature on SB 1070. Martin said, though, the race will be about larger economic issues.
“At that point, all of her 1070 bump evaporates,” he said.
Owen Buz Mills, who also is at 18 percent in the survey, would not comment. Instead, his press aide released a statement saying the results don’t mean anything, saying the governor’s numbers “have fluctuated like housing prices in Arizona.”
GOP gubernatorial primary: likely voter preference
Candidate / May 17 / April 13 / March 16
Brewer / 45% / 26% / 20%
Martin / 18% / 12% / 21%
Mills / 18% / 18% / 19%
Munger / 3% / 14% / 10%
Some other / 3% / 6% / 7%
Not sure / 13% / 24% / 23%
Source: Rasmussen Reports survey of 541 likely voters, with a margin of error of 4 percentage points.