The rematch between a career Air Force pilot and career bureaucrat in Arizona is shaping up to be a key opportunity for a GOP pick-up in the House of Representatives.
Republican challenger, retired Air Force Colonel Martha McSally, is poised to unseat Democratic Representative Ron Barber in the all-important Arizona Congressional District Two race, a seat formerly held by Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
McSally is the first female fighter pilot to fly in combat, and the first to command a fighter squadron in combat in United States History. She's tough -- in 2001 - 2002, she sued Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in an effort to overturn a military policy requiring all U.S. servicewomen to wear a Muslim Abaya and headscarf when off base in Saudi Arabia.
She's running with a focus the economy, government overreach, national security and leadership.
Congressman Barber worked for 30 years with the Arizona Division of Developmental Disabilities. In 2006 he began working for Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and was later named her district director.
In January of 2012, Giffords resigned from office after being seriously wounded in a shooting that claimed the lives of six people and wounded 13 others. Barber ran to fill Giffords seat, facing off against McSally in November of 2012.
Barber edged out McSally by less than 1% in a race that received little national attention. Given the current state of politics, conservatives see this as a race to invest time and money in this year.
Arizona is a Red state. Mitt Romney won it in 2014 by 9%, John McCain won it in 2008 by 8.5%, and George Bush won it by 10.5% in 2004. The Second Congressional district is not quite as red, with Romney narrowly winning the district in 2012.
That being said, the numbers are trending positive for McSally. Real Clear Politics showed the district as "Leaning Dem" in 2012 and now shows it a "Toss Up" in 2014.
Fort Huachuca and Davis Monthan are major military and economic components of CD2. This district has one of the largest active duty and veteran populations in the country. McSally's military service is well received by voters.
Plus, she is able to appeal to the all-important female voters, focusing on her commitment to make a difference for women. Her new ad, entitled, "Stand Up" highlights her eight year battle against the Pentagon to stand up for women's rights.
As opposed to his former boss, Gabby Giffords, Barber is more of a traditional, partisan Democrat. Barber has been coy about where he stands on ObamaCare, but a video has surfaced showing him shouting his support for ObamaCare at a rally in 2009.
Barber says he in favor of securing the border, yet he voted against the recent $694 million dollar border bill that passed the House of Representatives. He says he supports equal pay for women, however, the National Republican Congressional Committee discovered that women in Barber's office were earning 84 cents for every dollar that a man earned.
In short, Barber's rhetoric does not match reality.
Of course, money matters in politics and McSally is cashing in. The latest financial reports show that McSally out raised Barber for the fourth straight quarter, collecting nearly $100,000 more than the congressman. Outraising an incumbent is not easy, it is a true test of support for a challenger.
With just over eighty days until the 2014 midterm elections, McSally clearly has the advantage in the areas of military, momentum and money; enabling this trailblazer to put a victory lap on auto-pilot.
Alice Stewart is a Republican Consultant and Radio Talk Show host on KHTE in Little Rock, Arkansas. She served as Communications Director for Mike Huckabee for President in 2008, Michele Bachman for President in 2012, and Press Secretary for Rick Santorum for President in 2012.