Will Blake Masters cost Republicans an Arizona Senate seat?

When Republicans sought a candidate to take on Arizona Senator Mark Kelly, who has been a prime target this election season, the obvious choice fell on Doug Ducey, the state’s accomplished and relatively popular governor.

But when Ducey affixed his signature to papers certifying Joe Biden’s narrow 2020 victory in Arizona and purposefully silenced his cell phone as the White House rang, he signed his own death warrant with the party’s Trump-worshipping base.

The result was a toxic GOP primary that produced a candidate, Blake Masters, whose provocative statements and problematic stances — on abortion, Social Security, former President Trump’s election lies — vastly improve Kelly’s prospects and undermine hopes of flipping a seat held for The scrutiny is crucial 50-50 Senate.

It’s a pattern repeated across the country.

In Georgia, Ohio and Pennsylvania, Republicans have Senate hopefuls — Herschel Walker, JD Vance, Mehmet Oz — who are incompetent, inarticulate, or both, thanks largely to support from Trump and his supporters.

In New Hampshire, which holds its primary on Sept. 13, the GOP frontrunner is Don Bolduc, a retired Army general, anti-vaccination opponent and Trump acolyte who, among other things, has called Confederate monuments “symbols of hope.”

When Republicans were anticipating a massive red wave, the list of unconventional and foolhardy candidates wasn’t that important, as a strong tide can boost even the worst political prospects. But in the more competitive environment that seems to have unfolded, Republicans could face the consequences they suffered in 2010 and 2012 when the GOP blew a good shot at winning the Senate by presenting voters with several lousy decisions.

As Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell wryly observed, “The quality of the candidates has a lot to do with the outcome.”

In Arizona, one of the most competitive states in the country, the neophyte Masters benefited not only from Trump’s endorsement, but also from a $15 million infusion from Peter Thiel, the former Masters boss, billionaire conservative Silicon Valley libertarian . Masters ran a hard-edged campaign with many dystopian themes, winning the five-way GOP primary last month with 40% of the vote.

Since then he has backtracked.

The Tucson-raised Masters is 36 and a Stanford grad, but acts like he’s a lot younger. behind a history of bold and ill-considered pronouncements. He attributed a 2006 college essay and its anti-Semitic undertones to the impetuosity of youth. But more recently, Masters had made a number of other inflammatory comments.

He called the Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson a “pedophile apologist”, hailed Unabomber Ted Kaczynski as a subversive thinker deserving wider attention, suggested that blacks were responsible for the plague of gun violence in the nation , and propagated the vile and dangerous notion that Democrats are trying to replace white Americans with immigrants for political gain.

Since last month’s primary, Masters has tried to whitewash some of his previous issue positions by deleting language from his website, which described him as “100% pro-life,” hinted at his support for a constitutional ban on abortion and repeated Trump’s untruth that the 2020 election was stolen.

He’s also backed off the idea of ​​privatizing Social Security, an idea that surfaced in the primary and could seriously damage Masters’ standing among older Arizonans, a key voting bloc in the retirement haven.

“I think in context I was talking about something completely different,” Masters told the Arizona Republic after winning the nomination. “We cannot change the system. We cannot pull the rug out from under seniors.”

The dynamic is reminiscent of the last Arizona midterm election in 2018, when a Republican with a similarly sharp and off-putting personality, Martha McSally, fought Trump and then lost the Senate race to Democrat Kyrsten Sinema, who ran as a more sensible alternative.

“The Republican primary voters are fringe voters and you have to address them to win,” said Mike O’Neil, a Phoenix-based pollster and longtime political analyst. “But that’s a very awkward place to be in a general election.”

Like Sinema, without the drama, Kelly is seen as a relatively moderate willing to buck his party’s liberal leanings, which helps in a state where registered Democrats are trailing both independents and registered Republicans. His background – Navy fighter pilot, astronaut – also helps. As one Republican strategist put it, “The guy who had a steady hand at the controls of the space shuttle is hard to classify as someone who comes off half-hearted.”

Kelly, 58, had long braced himself for an uphill battle – winning narrowly in 2020 when he was elected to serve out the remainder of the late John McCain’s term – and has outperformed Masters tremendously. He has used his financial advantage to overwhelm his rival on the airwaves and attack him as an anti-abortionist.

With polls showing Kelly ahead and many Republicans privately vilifying Masters, the national party seems to be faltering in its commitment to the race. McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund canceled millions of dollars in television advertising after he diverted money to help Vance in Ohio, and there have been reports from party leaders and big GOP donors warning Masters to step up his fundraising or otherwise.

Of course, the political climate — so different from a few weeks ago when the Democrats seemed poised for a brawl — could turn back.

Republicans must hope so. If Masters Arizona loses and the GOP fails to capture the Senate, they will only have themselves – and Trump – to blame.

https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2022-09-01/midterm-election-arizona-senate-blake-masters-mark-kelly-candidate-quality-may-cost-republicans-control Will Blake Masters cost Republicans an Arizona Senate seat?

Alley Einstein

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