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Republicans Are Promoting Sinema to Democrats in Arizona

It is relatively unusual when a party tries to win a general election by spending money to support someone other than its own candidate. But the Arizona Senate election is special (although it is not a special election) and Arizona Republicans are planning to do precisely that.

Specifically, they are already running an ad that praises Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) as a liberal and trashes Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ). The idea is to convince Democrats that Gallego is bad news and they should vote for Sinema instead. Here is the ad:

The ad lies about a number of important things. The most important one is that it says Sinema voted with Joe Biden 100% of the time. Anyone who has paid any attention to politics in the past 3 years knows that Sinema and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) have blocked Biden's agenda over and over and over. And Manchin at least had a nominal reason for doing so—it's what his constituents wanted. Sinema had no valid reason for doing it. She ran as a Democrat and then stabbed the party in the back.

The ad also goes after Gallego, but not on his voting record. It says (truthfully) that he divorced Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego while she was pregnant and married a lobbyist several years later. It also calls him a deadbeat dad, without any evidence to support that claim. The ad doesn't mention Kari Lake, the likely Republican candidate. It merely suggests that Arizonans deserve a better choice.

The ad indicates that Republicans are worried that Sinema will pull more votes from Republicans who consider Lake to be a loony than from Democrats who despise Sinema. Saying that she voted with Biden 100% of the time is likely to backfire with many Democrats who know how much she blocked him. And for those Democrats who don't know, Gallego is probably going to mention it a couple of times. He is also going to mention that he fought in the Iraq War as a Marine, how he struggled with PTSD afterwards, and how his struggle resulted in the failure of his first marriage. Arizona is home to a lot of veterans and the story of his military service is likely to resonate with many of them. Gallego and his ex are good friends and share custody of their now-6-year-old son. Republicans aren't going to get her to dump on the congressman. The ad may well backfire.

One Republican strategist said that their goal is to make the three-way race (assuming that Sinema actually runs) into a contest of one Republican vs. two Democrats. Democrats are going to make it into a race between one Democrat and two Republicans. Of course, Sinema is likely to say that she is neither, rather she is an independent. But are there enough true independents to win an election where an actual Democrat and an actual Republican are in the race? It is also possible that Sinema sees the handwriting on the wall and it says: "You will lose, so don't run." (V)

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