Political analysts split on result from McSally, Sinema debate
PHOENIX — Viewers across the country tuned in Monday night as Republican Martha McSally and Democrat Kyrsten Sinema faced off for the first time before the Nov. 6 election for an open U.S. Senate seat in Arizona.
The debate was contentious, with both lawmakers debating topics that included immigration, health care, Medicare and climate change.
But political analysts were split on who they believed had the upper hand after the hour-long debate.
“These things are so subjective,” Valley political analyst Stan Barnes told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Arizona’s Morning News on Tuesday. “It’s kind of hard to say who won.”
“If you liked Sinema going in, you liked her going out. If you liked McSally going in, you liked her going out,” he added.
“If you were genuinely undecided and you entered the debate wondering what to do, in the end you were probably more confused than ever.”
Mike O’Neil, the host of KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Think Tank, said he believed that Sinema won over any undecided voters who tuned in to the debate.
“Sinema was playing to the middle while McSally was playing to the right,” he said.
“The only risk Sinema might have taken is there might have been some very liberal Democrats who might not have heard the verbage they wanted. But if there were any undecideds in the middle, I think Sinema walked away with that.”
But ABC political consultant Alex Castellanos disagreed, saying there was a clear winner — and it wasn’t Sinema.
“The McSally campaign has been about strength, in an uncertain world where there’s so much turbulence and chaos, you want strong, steady leadership,” Castellanos told Arizona’s Morning News on Tuesday.
“McSally’s campaign is saying, look, Sinema used to be something very different than what she’s pretending to be now — you can’t count on that, there’s no certainty there,” he added.
“That gives McSally, in my view, a slight edge, but it’s a jump ball Trump state so it’s going to be close.”
But O’Neil said Sinema reminded him of another Arizona lawmaker: Former U.S. Sen. John McCain.
“Sinema…presented herself as a moderate centrist who was willing to work with the other party,” he said. “She came across as the logical inheriter to the McCain ‘I will work with the other side’ faction of the Senate.”
KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Kathy Cline contributed to this report.