Why MAGA Worshipper Blake Masters Has Arizona Senator Mark Kelly on the Run

PHOENIX — As Arizona Republicans nominate Blake Masters to run against Senator Mark Kelly (D-AZ), there are signs that the beginnings of the GOP end its chances of toppling one of the Senate seats that they most covet.

The 36-year-old protégé of far-right tech billionaire Peter Thiel, Masters has made it through a controversial preliminary round with Donald Trump’s backing. He has run a Trumpian campaign so tough and strict that it borders on “incest,” in the words of Chuck Coughlin, a GOP pollster in Arizona.

For months, Masters has struggled to gain traction, and polls show him losing to Kelly in a resounding fashion—some by as much as 10 points. In September, the top GOP super PAC slashed its ad bookings in Arizona in an apparent trio of Masters, and prognosticators like Cook Political Report moved the race to a category less competition with states like Colorado.

As the election unfolds today, however, it’s safe to say that Democrats’ hopes of a safe, sweat-free win in Arizona have vanished like a Sonoran desert mirage.

Less than two years on from her narrow victory in 2020, Kelly is fighting for her political life — and Democrats’ hopes for a majority in the Senate — once again. Masters has closed the gap in the polls and Republicans are growing more optimistic in the race.

Despite the Masters’ disadvantages as a candidate — and Kelly’s advantages — most Arizona politicians have always expected an extremely tight Senate race in a state that has become one of the nation’s most controversial and divisive battlefields. It also happens to be a state where, in recent elections, the votes have failed to show the strength of the Republican candidates.

“I think we were all caught up in Kelly’s story… fighter pilot, astronaut, Gabby [Giffords’] husband, a personally attractive man, and oh, yes, he’s going to win,” Coughlin told The Daily Beast. “But what he’s up against is the cycle.”

That “cycle” is one in which Democrats not only face historic difficulties as the ruling party, but also have to overcome President Joe Biden’s subordinate approval ratings and an economic climate. challenging economy driven by high inflation.

Kelly, of course, would be the last Democrat to expect an easy win in Arizona. On Wednesday, the senator stopped by a campaign office south of Phoenix to greet volunteers who have made hundreds of calls to voters. “It’s 1 to 3 percent that really has an impact,” he told them.

After being asked why he thinks the race has become so tight, Kelly told the Daily Beast he doesn’t spend a lot of time looking at the polls.

“What I do know is that this is going to be really competitive. So I built a campaign to win and get the message across,” he said. “My expectation is that this will be a competitive election. And my expectation is that we will succeed. “

Campaign Masters did not provide its campaign schedule or provide comments for this article. But the Republican National Senate Committee – which has spent nearly $10 million on attacks against Kelly, more than any other Democrat it is targeting – believes the efforts Theirs are having an impact.

“Blake is running a great race, and Arizona voters are increasingly realizing that Mark Kelly is not the moderate, independent voice for Arizona that he describes as himself,” a spokesperson said. NRSC’s Chris Hartline said.

While bipartisan strategists increasingly see the agency’s control split evenly around three states — Pennsylvania, Nevada and Georgia — the results in Arizona will be significant.

Republicans don’t necessarily have to beat Kelly to win a majority, but if they do, a Republican majority of 52 seats or more will not only thwart Biden’s agenda but could block it outright. If elected, Masters is poised to bring a new style of right-wing politics into the Senate, replacing a compromise Democratic senator.

After winning the primaries in which he repeatedly denied the results of the 2020 election and threw in the trash GOP leaders like Senators Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Masters restrained, but sometimes clumsy. For example, after calling abortion a “religious sacrifice” in the stub, he offered some change of heart about the exceptions he allowed to the abortion ban. nation.

Kelly, meanwhile, was a reliable vote for Democrats but sought leadership on key local issues such as water management, infrastructure and manufacturing, and he tried to tried to appeal to Republicans with a more moderate message.

Some observers believe Kelly remains the favorite in the tightening race. Coughlin, the GOP pollster, said his instinct is for the senator to “stick” and win over independents, who tend to decide late in the contest cycle. nominate.

“Looking at the historical trend of midterm elections for the ruling party, it’s not surprising that Arizona is coming to an end this fall,” said Ryan O’Donnell, director of elections at Data For Progress. know on Wednesday. a poll showed Kelly and Masters tied with 47 percent of the vote each.

“Ultimately this race will get to where voters believe they can best address the high prices and inflation that our poll found to be the most important issue for Arizonans this month. 11,” O’Donnell said. “This race is currently in the margin of error, and Senator Kelly comes into this election with more support than his opponent.”

Indeed, in these hyper-polarized times, Kelly has an unusual advantage: even those who are voting for him don’t seem to dislike him. But the reasons they gave for their decision underscore the deep-seated problems that are making his re-election difficult.

At an early voting site in suburban Scottsdale — Brian, a middle-aged man who works in scientific sales and declined to give his last name — dropped in on Tuesday afternoon to vote for the Master . He told The Daily Beast that he doesn’t hate Kelly. He even showed respect for the senator’s background as an astronaut.

But that resume leaves Brian more frustrated about Kelly’s two years in office so far, during which he has largely supported the agenda of President Biden and the Democratic Party.

“I am a scientist,” he said. “Kelly is an astronaut and a scientist, I think he will be more independent. I am really disappointed.”

Paul Erickson, a Scottsdale resident who works in industrial heating and cooling, doesn’t have anything negative to say about Kelly personally, and only mentioned to The Daily Beast he had read the information. discourages the Democratic Party’s stance on immigration.

But Erickson points out that his decision was rooted in concerns about the balance of power in Washington. “Obviously we need a big change,” he said.

The masters, on the other hand, inspire some mixture of fear, contempt, and exasperation to those who do not support him. Several Democratic voters at the Scottsdale polling station winced at the mere mention of Masters’ name.

“He was absolutely insane,” said Brian Curry, a Phoenix man who went to the polling station to give cookies to election volunteers.

Coughlin, the GOP pollster, said there was a non-existent “aversion to the Masters” for Kelly. Still, he said, Kelly was “carrying Joe Biden’s desert backpack, and that’s where Republicans won’t forgive him.”

For some Democrats who support Biden, this is a confusing situation. When Kelly was speaking to volunteers in Phoenix on Wednesday, he got a question from a woman who asked for his advice on what to say to voters while knocking. Specifically, “how can we get the message across that President Biden is doing a great job?”

With a handful of reporters in the room, Kelly managed quickly. “The president is not on the ballot,” he said. “I’m voting… I’m going to talk to people about the work I did in the United States Senate, giving the Arizonans.”

Kelly’s supporters, like Phoenix small business owner Carly Rebuck, hope that specific message will resonate with voters about the Masters’ tough calls to the right and questions about the toxicity established by senators.

Despite Arizona’s noisy partisan political climate, Rebuck said she believes there is a majority of quieter voters who will appreciate Kelly’s record and efforts to build bridges with the parties. Republican member.

“With Blake Masters, if people think about, OK, who is going to actually get the job done, as opposed to the Marjorie Taylor Greenes of the world?” Rebuck said, as she took a break from making calls at Kelly’s campaign office on Wednesday.

“If someone wants to vote for someone believing in Arizona who has done so much for the people of Arizona and can really work with his party as well as other parties to get legislation and really can do things for this country,” she said, “I think people will vote for Mark Kelly for that.”

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