There is a lot of speculation about the Republican party’s chances of taking the momentum they have going into November and doing what was once thought unthinkable for this election cycle: flipping the Senate to red. The analyses I read — and I do read a lot of them — that break down how that just might happen all count Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) among the most vulnerable.
My view from here in my native Arizona is that Kelly probably isn’t sweating too much.
Last month, my friend and colleague Stephen Green gave his breakdown regarding the GOP’s Senate takeover chances, including some of my thoughts on the subject.
There are some reasons that Kelly is probably safe that have mostly to do with the hot-mess nature of the Arizona Republican party, but perhaps the biggest problem is that Kelly is a celebrity candidate. It’s important for a Senate candidate to have good statewide name recognition. Well, Mark Kelly has nationwide name recognition. Because of that, he’s able to raise an ungodly amount of money from donors all over the United States.
When crunch time in the campaign cycle rolls around, Kelly will have a spending advantage that none of his potential GOP opponents here will be able to match. He will be able to afford three television ads for every two radio ads the Republican can cough up the money for.
Let’s look at how we got stuck with Kelly being elected to finish the late John McCain’s term in the first place.
The GOP bench in Arizona isn’t what even an optimist would call good. Kelly’s opponent in 2020 was Martha McSally, the same candidate who had lost to Kyrsten Sinema in 2018.
McSally did have name recognition but was perhaps one of the worst candidates this state has ever seen. She would have had a hard time winning even back when we could practically pencil in Republicans for Senate seats here. Kelly had to do little more than flood the airwaves with “I’m an astronaut!” ads while Republican and independent voters were choosing to watch paint dry rather than get enthusiastic about McSally.
Kelly didn’t offer much in the way of visionary policy ideas when he ran, and he all but avoided the issue that is nearest and dearest to him: gun control.
That the Arizona GOP’s best option was to give McSally a second chance at winning the Senate seat pretty much tells you everything you need to know about the party here.
The one Arizona Republican who could beat Kelly is Gov. Doug Ducey, who has repeatedly — and vehemently — stated that he does not want to run for Senate.
An even bigger problem as far as the nuts and bolts of politics go is that the primary election here in the Grand Canyon State isn’t until the beginning of August. Whichever Republican candidate wins is going to be at an even bigger fundraising disadvantage for the general election. One candidate — Blake Masters — has close ties to tech billionaire Peter Thiel and may be able to nearly offset Kelly’s advantage but the more time, the better for that. The late primary only helps Kelly.
While it’s true that Joe Biden is a 400 lb. albatross around the necks of vulnerable Democrats, Kelly has done a fairly good job of flying under the radar and not being too closely associated with this trainwreck. He’s mostly hidden behind Sinema’s fashionable skirts and tried to stay out of the spotlight.
It’s not out of the realm of possibility to think that the Biden stink will be impossible for even a moneybags celebrity candidate like Kelly to shake off.
It is a question of whether the Arizona GOP will offer an alternative that makes independent voters and dispirited Republicans want to get to the polls.