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GOP’s Dilemma with its 2024 Arizona Candidates


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Suppose you wake up one morning and realize that your car has a problem (God forbid). The logical thing to do would be to take it to the mechanic as soon as possible to have it repaired. The decision seems somewhat inconsequential, but it is crucial to the future and health of the car. Depending on which mechanic you take it to, the outcome can be completely different. It can come back in optimal condition or practically destroyed. This is due to many variables: the mechanic’s experience, his budget and his skill in the trade, which will determine the success or not in repairing the car. This same process occurs in party primaries.

In this arena, voters choose the candidate of their choice to represent their party in the general election, whatever the office in question. This hides the following logic: the performance of that candidate will be one that may have been different had the candidate been someone else. No group of people is clearer on this explanation than Arizona Republicans.

2022 meant a huge missed opportunity for the GOP. With President Biden in the red in approval numbers, they faced two winnable races in “The Grand Canyon State.” With a Senate seat and the governor’s chair at stake, they nominated Blake Masters and Kari Lake, both endorsed by former President Donald Trump.

The result? Masters was almost 5% behind Mark Kelly and Lake was on the verge of victory, 17,000 votes behind Katie Hobbs. As for the Senate, it was the Democrats’ best performance in an upper house race in this state since 1988. On the gubernatorial side, the TV host was down 6% from Doug Ducey’s 2018 re-election.

Faced with this scenario, there were more than a few who argued that things might have been different if the nominees had been more traditional Republicans. In this case, the names of note are Jim Lamon and Karrin Taylor Robson, who came in second in their respective primaries behind Masters and Lake, respectively. Their style could well draw the state’s independents back to the GOP.

The GOP's dilemma with its candidates in Arizona for 2024, EFE
Kari Lake and Blake Masters were defeated during the last election in Arizona, which put the state’s most Trumpist candidates in check. (blakemasters.com)

Arizona rejected Trump in the last presidential election and elected Biden by a slim 0.3% margin. In other words, Arizonans are not exactly enamored with the most Trumpist wing of the Republican Party and they made that known in both 2020 and 2022.

While some blame the party leadership for not adequately funding Masters and others blame electoral irregularities for Lake’s defeat, the logical thing to do would be to try to turn defeats into victories. After falling into a pit for the first time, the logical thing to do would be to dodge it the next time.

Against this backdrop and with Kyrsten Sinema’s independent candidacy splitting the Democratic vote in 2024, the state’s Republicans are at an interesting crossroads when it comes to choosing their Senate candidate.

Masters style or Lamon style? The Republicans’ dilemma in Arizona

Following Rick Scott’s (R-FL) tenure, Senator Steve Daines (R-MT) is the new chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC). He is the new one in charge of ensuring that current GOP senators keep their seats and that new members arrive to the group.

Daines is clear when it comes to supporting candidates. In one of his first interviews since taking on his new role, he said he wants to see candidates who “can win a general election.”

Looking ahead to 2024, the possible candidates are Kari Lake, Blake Masters, Jim Lamon, Karrin Taylor Robson and Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb. The list divides people’s opinions, as the tug-of-war between Trumpist and more traditional candidates reappears.

The GOP's dilemma with its candidates in Arizona for 2024, EFE
Karrin Taylor Robson (center) is now considering running for the Senate in Arizona.

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Barrett Marson, a Republican strategist in the state. As he told POLITICO, “Just look at what happened in the last two elections. You in no way have to guess what happens when MAGA candidates ignore bread-and-butter issues that Arizonans care about.”

“Kari Lake is not the governor. Blake Masters is not a senator. Republicans have to get back to basics,” he added. For his part, Brady Smith, also a strategist and former Lake campaign adviser, called for not underestimating the popularity of the more Trumpist candidates with the party’s grassroots.

“She’s demonstrated that she still wields the loyalty of the GOP base; anyone eyeing the Senate race has to factor that into their calculus,” he said of Lake, also in dialogue with POLITICO.

Of the possible candidates mentioned, the fact is that all are flirting with the seat currently held by Sinema. While Lamb plans to announce his plans in the near future, Robson, Lake and Masters are seriously considering a bid. As for Jim Lamon, he is still waiting. Recently his spokesman stated that “[i]f a winning candidate emerges, he will strongly back that person — if not, Jim will run in 2024.”

Joaquín Núñez es licenciado en comunicación periodística por la Universidad Católica Argentina. Se especializa en el escenario internacional y en la política nacional norteamericana. Confeso hincha de Racing Club de Avellaneda. Contacto: [email protected] // Joaquín Núñez has a degree in journalistic communication from the Universidad Católica Argentina. He specializes in the international scene and national American politics. Confessed fan of Racing Club of Avellaneda. Contact: [email protected]