According to a prominent political handicapper, Republicans are losing the chance to beat Democratic Senator Mark Kelly of Arizona. This is a sign that the party is in broader struggles to retake the Senate majority.
The Cook Political Report with Amy Walter changed the Arizona race’s “toss-up” category to “leans Democratic,” signaling Kelly’s advantage over Republican nominee Blake Masters.
Jessica Taylor, Cook Political Report Senate editor, notes that Kelly has outperformed Masters in fundraising and this has resulted in a huge advantage in TV ad spending. She writes that Kelly and Democratic groups have spent or reserved almost $65 million in the general election period compared to nearly $16.2 million for Masters and GOP groups. (Taylor also states that Masters’ campaign has not run any ads this week.
Masters’ controversial past statements include praises for the Unabomber and suggestions that the January 6th attack was a false flag operation. He also suggested that the US shouldn’t have been involved in World War I/ II. – may have caused real damage to voters.
Taylor concludes, “In conversations with multiple Republicans either in the state, or watching the overall Senate background, Arizona has moved lower their list of flippable States with many even seeing Pennsylvania – a rating we shifted last month, but where Democrat John Fetterman faces an onslaught on crime and persistent inquiries about his health – as more probable now to stay in GOP column than winning Arizona.”
The new rating for Arizona is noteworthy because it was considered by many to be the most likely Republican pickup opportunity at the beginning of the 2022 cycle. Although the state was a Republican stronghold for many years, Democrats have made recent gains with Joe Biden winning it in 2020 and Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema winning in 2018.
Masters’ problems, and those of the Arizona GOP as a whole, indicate how Donald Trump and Trumpism have affected the party and made it more vulnerable to attacks in general elections.
Trump’s endorsement was a major factor in Masters’ success in August’s crowded primary. Trump announced his pick by saying that Blake knew the “Crime of the Century” took place and that he would expose it. Masters replied by calling Trump “a visionary and a great man.”
Masters was nominated, but he began to remove – literally! – his previous positions. His previous language regarding abortion restrictions was gone from his website. Ditto his views about election denialism. Masters’ campaign explained that Masters updates the policy section on his website and considers it a living document, rather than a set of static beliefs.
Masters is not the only one struggling to adapt to the different challenges presented by the general election. Pennsylvania’s open-seat Senate race saw Mehmet Oz fall behind Fetterman. In Ohio, Republican JDVance is in a close race with Democrat Tim Ryan for the seat of replacing the retiring GOP senator. Rob Portman.
The GOP is currently in a difficult situation that all three Republicans are stuck in. They had to embrace Trump and the sometimes extreme positions of the Republican base to win their primaries. All three received the endorsement of the former President. However, these same policies have now been declared to be detrimental to their chances of winning a general election.
This awkward dance is jeopardizing Republicans’ chances of winning what used to be a near certainty: the Senate majority this fall.