Pence turns Arizona into biggest test yet of a post-Trump GOP
Everyone would do well to circle their calendar for August 2nd.
Pence endorsed Arizona gubernatorial hope Karrin Taylor Robson on Monday over Trump-backed election denier Kari Lake. The move wasn’t unexpected – NBC News hinted it might be in the offing when Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) endorsed Taylor Robson two weeks ago – but it does increase the importance of the competition. And more than any other race, it reflects a calculated gamble by those Trump who have been targeted for disagreeing with his plan of stolen 2020 elections.
As we discovered after Ducey’s endorsement, this wasn’t the first primary in which members of the GOP establishment went up against a Trump-backed candidate. Certain Republicans defeated Trump in key statewide races in Pennsylvania and a gubernatorial race in Nebraska, among others. Pence and others also backed Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) as he easily fended off former Senator David Perdue – a major setback for Trump due to Perdue’s stunning 50-plus point loss.
But by the time Pence got involved in Georgia, Kemp had long been a heavy favorite. (In fact, he’s never really fallen behind, save for a very speculative early poll commissioned by Trump’s political operation.) It was also a lot easier to play off supporting Kemp than just supporting an incumbent, as the Parties almost always do.
And while other, more competitive races have pitted certain establishment figures against Trump, almost none have shown this level of high-profile opposition.
Trump’s candidate is now rejected by:
- His own former vice president
- The head of the Republican Governors Association, Ducey (although Ducey’s confirmation was in his capacity as governor)
- Former New Jersey governor and Trump adviser Chris Christie
- Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich
- Senate President Karen Fann and
- Former Arizona Congressman Matt Salmon (who dropped out of the race and supported Taylor Robson)
Each of those confirmations came over the past three weeks as efforts to prevent Lake’s nomination have intensified.
Quality polls on the race are sparse, but there’s a sense the race has narrowed somewhat, especially after Salmon’s exit made it a two-candidate race. And the fact that Ducey and Pence got involved suggests they see a way to defeat Lake, who has long stood as the front runner.
A Taylor Robson win from behind would therefore be more significant than Kemp’s. But the decision to line up behind Taylor Robson carries more risks for the likes of Ducey and Pence. Trump’s track record in competitive primaries is pretty mixed, but we’ve also seen hopefuls like Lake heartburning the establishment with his extreme rhetoric.
For his part, Ducey is urging his party to turn the page on the continued stolen Trump and Lake election talks etc. Al. During an appearance on CNN on Sunday, before Pence’s endorsement, he said Lake was “misleading voters without evidence.” (Taylor Robson has said the 2020 election was “unfair,” but she’s stopped calling it fraudulent, and Lake is among the most outspoken proponents of bogus conspiracy theories in today’s GOP.)
The RGA leader also made it very clear that his party’s candidates should focus on bread-and-butter issues rather than renegotiating in 2020.
“I also think this election should be about the future,” Ducey said. “I don’t think we should think about 2020 for a moment. This is about the 2022 election cycle.”
In the same interview, Ducey naturally reiterated the tightrope walk he and Pence have walked on Trump, disagreeing when asked if he could back Trump in the 2024 presidential race, despite the former president attacking Ducey for not backing his 2020 conspiracy had followed . He instead said he expects Trump to win primary opposition if he runs for office, saying “I’m confident we’ll have options” and “I want someone who can win this general election.” Similarly, Pence has avoided directly prosecuting the President who so disregarded him and his personal well-being on Jan. 6.
The calculation is obvious that the page turning needs to be more subtle – that attacking Trump head-on is a recipe for being brushed aside by the GOP. So it’s better to hound Trump-backed candidates on issues of eligibility and other vulnerabilities, and show that there’s a path for post-Trump candidates.
It is a message that is not coincidentally related to the year 2024. Notable Republicans will not accuse Trump of committing a crime on January 6, 2021, or line up with the Never Trumpers in their midst. Instead, they will suggest that moving 2020 back in time might be a better way forward, and hope voters favor candidates with a better chance of winning.
And if they can successfully get that message across in a key swing state — one of the two states alongside Georgia that turned blue in 2020 for the first time in many years — it will certainly go a long way in bolstering the 2024 argument they shy away from articulating themselves too explicitly.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/07/18/pence-arizona-gop-trump/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=wp_politics Pence turns Arizona into biggest test yet of a post-Trump GOP