WASHINGTON — Democrats got some good news this morning from the latest NBC News/ Marist poll of Arizona, which showed Democrat Kyrsten Sinema besting Republican Martha McSally by six points in a two-way race among likely voters, 50 percent to 44 percent. (That advantage for Sinema narrows to three points when the ballot is expanded to include Green Party candidate Angela Green; in that three-way contest, Sinema leads 47 percent to 44 percent, with Green receiving 6 percent.)
Sinema’s slight lead is fueled by an advantage among Latinos (69 percent to 22 percent), independents (58 percent to 32 percent) and women (54 percent to 41 percent) — all key parts of a statewide Democratic coalition in the Grand Canyon State.
But that news also comes as Democrats’ onetime hopes of regaining control of the United States Senate have faded to a longshot, with North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp considered likely to be headed for a loss and with several other red state Democrats facing uphill battles. To win control of the U.S. Senate, Democrats need to pick up a net of two seats, arithmetic that leaves no margin for error.
But as slim as their chances are, there’s still a pathway one week out from the election. (And Democrats may be encouraged by what could be a slide in Trump’s approval rating over the weekend, per Gallup’s weekly poll.)
There are three remaining pathways for Democrats to regain control of the upper chamber. Here they are:
1. Democrats win the GOP-held Senate seats of Arizona and Nevada — and also hold on to ALL of their vulnerable seats in North Dakota, Missouri, Florida, Indiana, Montana and West Virginia.
2. Democrats win the GOP-held Senate seats of Arizona, Nevada AND Tennessee, which allows them to lose ONE Democratic-held seat (like North Dakota).
3. Democrats win the GOP-held Senate seats of Arizona, Nevada, Tennessee AND Texas, which allows them to lose TWO Democratic-held seats.
By the way, we’ll have a new NBC News/Marist poll of another one of those key states at 5pm ET.
Here are more findings from our NBC/Marist Arizona poll, which was conducted October 23-27.
Trump’s job approval among likely voters Arizona stands at 44 percent approve/ 49 percent disapprove. (Among all registered voters, it’s 43 percent approve / 48 percent disapprove.)
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Democrats have a single-point advantage with likely voters on congressional preference, with 47 percent preferring a Democratic-controlled Congress and 46 percent preferring the GOP in charge. That’s despite a 7-point advantage for Republicans in party identification statewide.
Voters are split over the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, with 35 percent saying they’re more likely to back a candidate who supported him (like McSally) and 37 percent saying they’re more likely to back a candidate who opposed him (like Sinema).
One thing worth noting: That Trump approval rating at 44 percent among likely voters in Arizona is identical to Martha McSally’s support in a head-to-head race with Sinema. That’s something we’ve seen before in our statewide polling — Trump’s approval rating indicating a bit of a ceiling for GOP candidates statewide. Consider:
Georgia NBC/Marist poll (October 14-18.) Trump’s job approval with likely voters: 49 percent. Brian Kemp’s support in two-way contest with Stacey Abrams: 49 percent.
Minnesota NBC/Marist poll (September 30-October 4): Trump’s job approval with likely voters: 38 percent. Karin Housley’s support in two-way contest with Tina Smith: 38 percent.
Wisconsin NBC/Marist poll (September 30-October 3): Trump’s job approval with likely voters: 45 percent. Scott Walker’s support in two-way contest with Tony Evers: 43 percent.
With a week to go until the midterms, the president is returning to a favorite topic — immigration. First, in an interview with FOX News’ Laura Ingraham, Trump described the migrant caravan as being made up of a “big percentage of men, young, strong — a lot of bad people in there, people that are in gangs.” He said the United States will build “tent cities” to hold migrants during asylum proceedings, and he justified the deployment of more than 5,000 troops to the southern border by once again saying “we’re being invaded.”
Then, there’s this morning’s news from Axios that Trump wants to use an executive order to end birthright citizenship. “It was always told to me that you needed a constitutional amendment. Guess what? You don't,” the president said in an interview. "You can definitely do it with an Act of Congress. But now they're saying I can do it just with an executive order." But just saying it doesn’t make it so; many legal experts dismiss such a unilateral move as unconstitutional. Even if the order materializes, it will immediately draw extensive legal challenges.
All this is coming a week before an election in which Trump’s rhetoric and Republican campaign ads have made clear that the GOP wants immigration back in the news cycle to fire up base voters. And it’s coming as Trump — as we wrote yesterday — has embraced division and controversy as political opportunities to exploit. Ask yourself: If any other president was making long-shot unilateral proposals on a highly-charged issue one week before a base-driven election, what would you think?
With the president set to visit Pittsburgh today in the wake of a deadly anti-Semitic attack, not everyone in the community is welcoming him. From the New York Times: “Mayor William Peduto, who strongly rejected Mr. Trump’s suggestion that armed guards in houses of worship are the answer to violence, warned that the president would be a distraction from funerals taking place Tuesday. Many in the Jewish community in Pittsburgh cited what they saw as the president’s divisive rhetoric, which they feel had a role in enabling the violence here, as well as other recent episodes including the mail bombs sent from Florida to prominent Democratic figures and what appears to be the racial killing of two black shoppers near Louisville, Ky.”
More: “Not all Jewish leaders said Mr. Trump was unwelcome. Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, who was in the sanctuary leading a service for the Tree of Life congregation during the shootings, told CNN on Monday: ‘I’m a citizen. He’s my president. He is certainly welcome.’”
Here’s a trend we’ve noticed in the last few days, amid the recent round of debate about dangerous political rhetoric and the incitement of violence: Pleas for unity are showing up in ads.
Take, for example, this new ad from Rep. Rodney Davis, a Republican who’s running in an Illinois House district that went narrowly for Donald Trump in 2016. In the spot, Davis — seated with his wife — speaks about the Congressional baseball shooting last June. "I never thought that my friends and I would have to dodge bullets from somebody who just disagreed with us politically. I made a decision that day to talk about what I'd seen." His wife adds: “It's so important to come forward and to say enough. It's gonna take both parties to bring that level of rhetoric and hate speech down.”
In Florida, Rick Scott’s latest ad describes Floridians coming together in the wake of Hurricane Michael, saying “You wouldn’t believe the stories of wonderful people helping each other. They’re not saying ‘Are you a Republican or a Democrat?’ They’re saying ‘Do you need a generator? Do you need food? Do you need water? Can I help you get a tarp on your roof?’”
Another new ad from Maryland Republican Gov. Larry Hogan quotes an African-American journalist in Baltimore extolling Hogan’s efforts to create unity in the wake of the 2015 riots.
It might not be the majority of messages out there, but at least in races where candidates need a significant share of moderates and cross-over voters, pushback against division and anger is a message getting money behind it.
And speaking of ads, the DCCC is up with a new Spanish-language ad airing in five states. First reported by NBC’s Suzanne Gamboa, the ad focuses on a Latino family that seeks “a Congress that fights for us.”
More: “The ad is running in Albuquerque and El Paso to influence congressional races in New Mexico District 2 and Texas 23. It's also running in the Dallas-Fort Worth area in Texas districts 32 and 6 and in the Houston-Galveston area in Texas districts 7, 2 and 22. Other areas are Las Vegas for Nevada districts 3 and 4; Sacramento for California District 10, the Los Angeles area to reach California 25, 39, 45, 48 and 49 and finally Utah 4.”
Chuck Todd is moderator of "Meet The Press" and NBC News' political director.
Mark Murray is a senior political editor at NBC News.