Republicans are losing their chances of defeating Sen. Mark Kelly, Democrat of Arizona, a sign of the party’s broader struggle of late to regain the Senate majority, a sign of significant political impotence.
On Thursday, the Cook Political Report with Amy Walter moved the Arizona race from its “tossup” category to “Democratic,” indicating that she has an advantage over Republican candidate Kelly Blake Masters.
Explaining the change in rating, Cook Political Report Senate editor Jessica Taylor Kelly says he has crushed the Masters in fundraising, which has led to a huge advantage in terms of TV ad spending. “Democratic groups and Kelly have spent or reserved nearly $65 million in the general election, compared to nearly $16.2 million for GOP groups and Masters,” he wrote. (Taylor adds that the Masters campaign is not running ads this week.)
Masters’ past controversial statements – has praised the UnabomberHe suggested that the January 6 attack was a false flag operation by the US in World War I or World War II. That they shouldn’t have been involved in the World War, etc. also seems to have done real damage with the voters.
“In conversations with several state Republicans or looking at the overall Senate battleground, Arizona has fallen down the list of flipping states, many have even seen Pennsylvania – a rating we changed last month, but where Democrat John Fetterman has faced an onslaught. Ads about crime and lingering questions about his health — now he’s more likely to stay in the GOP column than win Arizona,” Taylor concluded.
Arizona’s new rating is notable because at the start of the 2022 election cycle, the race, along with Georgia, was seen by many as the safest option for Republicans. The state has long been a Republican stronghold, though Democrats have made recent gains with Joe Biden in 2020 and Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema in 2018.
But Masters’ problems – and the Arizona GOP in general – are indicative of how Donald Trump (and Trumpism) has messed up the party and left it weaker in the general election.
Masters emerged from a crowded primary in August thanks to Trump’s endorsement. “Blake knows the ‘Crime of the Century’ happened, he’s going to expose it, and he’s also going to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Trump said in announcing his choice. Masters responded by calling Trump “a great man and a visionary.”
Once Masters won the nomination, however, he immediately began trying to clean up some of his past positions, literally. Previous language on abortion restrictions disappeared from its website. Ditto his views on election denial. By way of explanation, Masters’ campaign said the candidate himself updates the policy section of his website and sees it as a “living document” as opposed to a static set of beliefs.
Masters is not alone in struggling to adapt to the different challenges of the general election. In Pennsylvania, Republican Mehmet Oz has trailed Fetterman in the race for an open state Senate seat. And in Ohio, Republican JD Vance finds himself in a surprisingly close race with Democrat Tim Ryan, who is running to replace Sen. Rob Portman.
All three Republicans find themselves caught in the crosshairs of the GOP’s current dilemma. To win the primaries, Trump and the Republican base often had to embrace extreme positions. (All three won the former president’s endorsement.) But now, as their party’s nominee, those policies hurt their chances of winning the general election.
And that awkward dance jeopardizes Republicans’ chances at what once seemed a near certainty: winning the Senate majority this fall.