Between the House, Senate, and assorted gubernatorial races, there are nearly 500 major offices up for grabs in the 2022 mid-term elections. And out of those nearly 500 races, the Senate race unfolding in Arizona is by far the most important. It isn’t just crucial that the GOP win this seat and with it an overall Senate majority. It is crucial that the right candidate win the seat, in order to further the long-term transformation of the GOP into an America First political party.
Right now, though, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is trying to sabotage this transformation by urging Governor Doug Ducey to enter the race, and the only obstacle to his plans is Ducey’s wife.
According to a source close to both Ducey and McConnell, Angela Ducey is eager to be out of the political spotlight, and has become irate with McConnell’s constant pleas for her husband to enter the race. Besides the usual difficulties that come with being a politician’s spouse, the past year has been particularly rough for Angela as her husband has been savaged from the right for his role in certifying Joe Biden’s 2020 victory in the state.
But apparently, McConnell thinks nothing of putting the hurt on the Ducey marriage for the sake of sticking a metaphorical thumb in Donald Trump’s eye.
McConnell’s motivation is simple: He doesn’t like Donald Trump, and doesn’t like the direction Trump has taken the Republican Party. But he also can’t oppose Trump openly, and is instead stuck trying to wait out the president while elevating candidates who are loyal to the old GOP rather than the new one. For McConnell, Ducey is an enticing pawn in this proxy war.
The stakes are high. With the Senate split 50/50 between Republicans and Democrats, the Grand Canyon State offers the most likely opportunity for the GOP to pick up a seat and, with it, take control of the chamber. That means more than just offering a symbolic rebuke to the Biden Administration. It means the opportunity to hold up extremist nominees to the federal courts, or even the Supreme Court. It means blocking the installation of ideologues like Gigi Sohn onto crucial regulatory bodies like the FCC. It means blocking President Biden’s plan to eliminate the filibuster in order to rewrite election laws in all fifty states. In turn, it means blocking more ambitious Democratic plans like packing the Supreme Court, admitting D.C. and Puerto Rico as states, abolishing the Electoral College, and giving amnesty to the two million illegal immigrants who swamped the border last year, plus the ten or twenty or thirty million other illegal immigrants already squatting in this country.
But the Arizona Senate race matters for even more reasons. A newly-released Quinnipiac poll shows President Biden mired at a miserable 33 percent approval rating, with just 28 percent support among Latinos. If numbers like this even remotely hold up over the next three years, then no amount of ballot harvesting and late-night pauses will save Democrats from a 2024 wipeout. The Republican president holding office after that wipeout could very well be Donald Trump once again, or an anointed successor running on the same platform.
In 2017, President Trump’s America-first promises were badly undermined not by Democrats, but by two Arizona senators from his own party: John McCain and Jeff Flake. If a second Trump term or another America First presidency is going to succeed, then having new faces in the Senate who will understand and defend the president’s platform, instead of undermining it, is critical.
Above all, the Arizona race is a test: A test of whether a candidate can run, proudly, in a swing state, on President Trump’s revolutionary America-first platform and take home a victory.
This is a test that Mitch McConnell does not want voters to face. And right now, McConnell is taking advantage of President Trump’s hesitancy to try and sabotage the odds of a MAGA candidate being elected.
So far, Trump has refrained from endorsing anyone in the Arizona race. A Politico article published Thursday highlighted his likely thought process:
“If Trump is planning to run for president — which all signs point to, he is — the most important thing should be to elect more people to the Senate who share his worldview,” one Trumpworld adviser said. “I think the biggest problem Trump had in the first four years was the lack of ideological supporters in the Senate.”
That determination has prompted Trump to be more nuanced, at least so far, with some endorsements. While the 45th president has given his seal of approval to candidates ranging from a local mayor to the autocratic prime minister of Hungary, he has held off on doing so in key Senate races. That includes Missouri, Oklahoma, Ohio, and Pennsylvania — where his early pick, Sean Parnell, dropped out after messy details of his divorce were revealed.
This Saturday, Trump will hold a rally in Florence, Ariz. But he is not expected to make an endorsement of any Senate candidate in that state, according to aides. People close to the former president say Trump isn’t being judicious so much as cautious, having been burned too many times backing candidates that weren’t fully vetted or weren’t sure things in their primaries.
The truth of the matter is that by not making an endorsement in Arizona, Trump is creating room for McConnell to pick away at his influence. By refusing to give his endorsement to a candidate, Trump is keeping the field from narrowing and creating the opportunity for Ducey to swoop in as the state’s GOP standard-bearer.
Despite all the red-on-red fire he’s taken over 2020, if Ducey entered the Senate race he would instantly be the favorite for the nomination, simply due to name recognition. He is a two-term governor, a proven winner, and has a robust fundraising machine in the state.
But if Ducey enters the race, it will certainly not be as an ideological or political ally of President Trump. Another Politico article, also published Thursday, makes that plain as day:
In the past several months, Ducey has brought on four new staffers who previously worked for Arizona Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake, including two who were state directors, according to a POLITICO review of the governor’s office’s staff announcements.
With staffers like that, it is clear that a Ducey entry would be disastrous for the long-term evolution of the Republican Party. In the short term, he would increase the odds of Democrats winning the seat since thousands of Trump supporters haven’t forgiven him over 2020, and Trump himself said last July that “there is no way he would get my endorsement” if he ran. In the long run, even if he wins, Republican voters will be rewarded with a Jeff Flake-style Republican ready to undermine the next Republican Administration just as much as his predecessors undermined the last one.
Donald Trump is nearing victory in his long struggle with McConnell for control of the Republican party. McConnell is on the ropes and he knows it. Trump should not give him the opportunity to get back in the ring.