A $450,000 cash infusion into Len Munsil’s gubernatorial campaign has still not enabled him to catch up to Don Goldwater. A new statewide survey shows Goldwater maintaining a lead over the other three GOP contenders, with 23 percent of those likely to go to the polls saying they would vote for him.
That compares with 11 percent for Munsil —with candidates Mike Harris and Gary Tupper still far behind.
The telephone poll of 627 individuals, conducted by Behavior Research Center in the second and third weeks of July, came two months after Munsil got a $453,849 check from the Citizens Clean Elections Commission. By contrast, Goldwater has yet to qualify for his public funds. Tupper and Harris, both running on private donations, have nowhere near that much.
In May, before getting any cash, Munsil was trailing Goldwater in the polls by a 10 percent margin.
Pollster Earl de Berge said the figures by no means leave Munsil in the dust. He noted that four out of every 10 Republicans have yet to make up their minds.
But de Berge said Munsil may need to do something — and quick — to catch up. Early voting starts in just two weeks. And Goldwater still could get $453,849 in that time.
Part of Munsil’s problem, said de Berge, is the two top Republican contenders do not appear to have significant differences on key issues. Both want to crack down on illegal border crossing, both want more tax relief, both support a constitutional ban on gay marriage and both back additional restrictions on abortion.
So does Munsil need to do something outrageous to break away?
“Maybe ‘outrageous’ is not the word I would have chosen,’’ de Berge said. But he said that Munsil will have to find a clear way to differentiate himself.
One tactic Munsil is counting on to gain ground on Goldwater is political experience.
Vernon Parker, a Munsil campaign consultant, said Munsil will continue to highlight his background “promoting conservative values’’ as president of the Center for Arizona Policy. By contrast, Parker said, Goldwater worked for the state for years — including Gov. Janet Napolitano — as special events coordinator.
But de Berge said Munsil is competing against a famous name, even if it belonged to Don’s uncle, Barry. He said voters may simply decide to “go with the brand name I know.’’
Ultimately, de Berge said it may not matter who wins the primary. He said incumbent Democrat Napolitano leads Goldwater by 2-1, and Munsil by 3-1 — something de Berge said would not be possible unless some Republicans found Napolitano preferable to any of the choices they have.
Plus, de Berge’s survey results show one in five Republicans said they will not support any of the GOP contenders.
Tupper has tried to tap this vein, telling Republicans they need to nominate someone more moderate.
He supports abortion rights, sees no reason for a constitutional amendment on gay marriage and says proposals to seal the border and deport undocumented workers are overly simplistic. But Tupper, without either personal wealth or public funding, is stuck with only 2 percent of GOP support.
Munsil’s support appears to exist virtually entirely in Maricopa County. Fewer than 1 percent of Pima County Republicans said they will vote for him, with his backing in the other 13 counties at about 3 percent.
Parker questioned whether enough people outside Maricopa County were queried to give accurate results. But de Berge said the margin of error for the Republican sample size is no more than 6.3 percentage points.
By the numbers
Republican gubernatorial race poll results:
Candidate July May
Goldwater 23% 14% Munsil 11% 4% Harris 5% 2% Tupper 3% 3% None 19% * Unsure 39% 76%