Arizona Republicans’ Democratic push deepens concerns about the Senate


Nowhere has the battle between the nation’s election deniers and democracy advocates been played out in more vivid detail than in Arizona, where Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly’s ability to hold off Trump-backed GOP nominee Blake Masters will be key to Democratic hopes. Of defending the narrow majority of the Senate.

Now six years into his term, Kelly — a retired astronaut and husband of former Republican Gabby Giffords — entered the race in an enviable position as a formidable fundraiser with a personal brand that gave him bipartisan appeal in Arizona, where one. a third of voters are independent.

But the economic headwinds facing Democrats, as well as President Joe Biden’s low approval ratings, have complicated his political fortunes. Republicans need a clean one-seat gain on Tuesday to take control of the Senate, and Democrats are already on the defensive in Nevada, Georgia and New Hampshire.

Arizona has emerged as one of the nation’s most important battlegrounds — not just for Senate and governor this year, and likely in the presidential race next — but also at the center of key demographic shifts that are testing the reach of both parties.

The Grand Canyon State has also been home to some of the most dramatic scenes in the battle over the future of democracy. These include former President Donald Trump’s pressure on state officials to overturn the results of the 2020 election; In the end, Biden’s victory was confirmed again and again by the party’s “audit”; and the disturbing scenes at the end of last month, when activists – some of them armed – appeared at the polling stations to monitor and film voters in the hope of preventing voter fraud (which has so far been proven to be non-existent).

He has played against Kelly, who was selected in the 2020 special election to fill Republican Senator John McCain’s seat, and Masters, who won his primary after embracing Trump’s lies about the 2020 election. the back

While Masters is a political novice who struggled to raise money, he was pushed in the primaries by his former boss Peter Thiel, and has seen support of late from Trump’s super PAC and the political arm of the Club for Growth after the Senate Leadership Fund. , the party’s top super PAC, cut its spending here to divert resources elsewhere. And he’s teamed up closely with Kari Lake, a former televangelist hot on the heels of Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs’ gubernatorial race, who could help her cross the finish line.

A Fox News poll released Tuesday showed no clear leader in the Senate race, while a New York Times/Siena College poll released Monday gave Kelly 51 percent to 45 percent of voters.

Former President Barack Obama traveled to Arizona this week to campaign for Kelly and other Democrats, warning that “democracy as we know it may not survive in Arizona” if election denialists like Masters, Lake and GOP Secretary of State nominee Mark Finchem are elected Tuesday. .

Kelly has called her opponent an extremist who would threaten abortion rights, Social Security, Medicare and democracy itself, qualities Masters rejects.

“Blake Masters has some beliefs that are dangerous to Arizonans,” Kelly said during a rally with Obama in Phoenix on Wednesday night. “Now he is questioning the results of the elections that are six days away. … This is dangerous, folks.”

But Republicans see the race differently, sensing a clear opportunity in a state Biden won by less than 10,500 votes. Democrats like Kelly and Biden, Masters told a Mohave County crowd earlier this week, “have made life in America, in Arizona, more dangerous, less affordable.”

Masters encouraged his crowd to be “the tip of the spear” and come out to “manufacture this red wave” — which the GOP hopes will help them gain control of the Senate, which is currently split 50-50 with Vice President Kamala Harris. vote to break the tie.

Entering the general election phase of the campaign, Masters appeared to be shifting toward more moderate positions that would broaden his appeal — removing some of his more extreme positions on abortion and the 2020 election from his campaign website and as he acknowledged in his debate with Kelly. he did not see voter fraud as likely to change the outcome of the 2020 election.

But he reversed course after receiving a phone call from Trump asking him to “go tougher” on the election denial, an interview captured in a Fox documentary.

“Look Kari. Kari is earning with little money. And if they say: ‘How is your family?’ He says the election was rigged and stolen. You will lose if you go soft. You’re going to lose that base,” Trump told Masters on the call after the debate.

“I’m not going to soften,” Masters replied.

Asked this week what he would say to moderates frustrated by inflation but also worried about his statements about the 2020 election, Masters said he doesn’t think those voters are “concerned about what I’m saying about 2020.”

“I think the most important things to voters so far are inflation, crime and the border,” he told CNN’s Kyung Lah in an interview. “I invite everyone, Republican, moderate or Democrat, to ask themselves, ‘Am I better off now than I was two years ago?’… In almost every case, unfortunately, the answer is no.”

“We have a wide southern border, moderates don’t like that,” Masters added. “We have 13% inflation in Maricopa County, moderates don’t like that. Even moderates want to be able to ride, and they want to ride safely,” he said, pointing to Phoenix’s homicide rate. “So you don’t have to be a political party to not be with it.”

Kelly has argued that he has shown independence from the Biden administration in Washington, DC, by trying to distance himself from national Democrats on immigration in a border state.

During last month’s debate, he said that “Democrats were held up when they’re wrong on this issue,” including the president. He noted that he took a stand against the administration when it announced plans to end Title 42, the pandemic-era policy that allowed Border Patrol agents to return migrants to their home countries.

“When the president decided he was going to do something stupid and change the rules,” Kelly said during the debate, “I told him he was wrong.”

While first lady Jill Biden heads to Arizona, Kelly has not campaigned with Joe Biden.

This week with Obama – who has seen Democrats expand the current president’s approval numbers into flooded battlegrounds – Kelly played up his outsider credentials. He was introduced by his wife, who was seriously injured in a 2011 mass shooting and later became an outspoken advocate for gun violence prevention measures. He insisted that he never intended to run for office before 2020 — “that was always Gabby’s job” — but noted that he has dedicated his life to public service and is committed to tackling Arizona’s challenges.

Obama tried to help Kelly burnish his independent credentials by highlighting his unique experience as a fighter pilot turned US senator: “You know when they had the movie ‘Top Gun’?” the former president said: “all those people in the film are actors; in fact, it is a superior weapon.’

“There’s so much at stake in this election in six days,” Kelly said in his closing argument in Phoenix. “We all know guys like Blake Masters…somebody who thinks they know better than everybody else. Letting them make the decisions for you is dangerous. So in six days, let’s make sure we win.”