Arizona has managed to draw the country's rapt attention. The tight race between Democratic Senator Mark Kelly and Trump-backed Republican Blake Masters could be the race that decides which party will control the Senate.
The Final Countdown
Senator Kelly is a retired astronaut and husband of former Representative Gabby Giffords. He entered the race as a formidable fundraiser with a personal brand that earned him bipartisan appeal in Arizona.
However, the economic issues facing Democrats and Joe Biden's low approval ratings have complicated things for Kelly. Republicans only need a net gain of one seat to achieve control of the Senate, and Democrats are already playing defense in Nevada, Georgia, and New Hampshire.
Arizona has positioned itself as one of the most important battleground states in the country. Not only because of the Senate and governor positions that will be filled but also because of key demographic changes that are testing the reaches of both parties.
Arizona has also been ground zero for some of the most dramatic events in the fight over the future of democracy. Former President Donald Trump attempted to pressure state officials in Arizona to overturn the 2020 election results. There were also repeated “partisan” audits that ultimately cemented Biden's win.
Then, last month, masked activists-some of them armed-showed up to monitor and film voters at ballot drop boxes in an attempt to prevent widespread voter fraud.
Novice vs. Veteran
Although Blake Masters is considered to be a political novice who has struggled to raise money, he was able to secure funding from his former boss Peter Thiel, in the primary and also received assistance from Trump's super PAC. Masters also allied himself closely with Kari Lake, the former news anchor who is fighting for the governor's seat against Katie Hobbs.
Fox News released a poll on Tuesday that showed no clear winner thus far, but a New York Times/Siena College poll released on Monday showed Kelly with an edge of 51% to 45% among likely voters.
Former President Barack Obama paid a visit to Arizona this week to campaign for Kelly and other Democrats. He warned that “democracy, as we know it, may not survive in Arizona” if “election deniers” like Blake Master, Kari Lake, and GOP Secretary of State nominee Mark Finchem are elected on November 8th.
Kelly described Masters as an “extremist” who would jeopardize abortion rights, Social Security, Medicare, and Democracy itself. Masters has vehemently denied this characterization. “Blake Masters has some beliefs that are just dangerous for Arizonans,” Kelly said during the rally with Obama Wednesday night in Phoenix. “He is now questioning the results of an election that is still six days away. … This is dangerous, folks.”
Republicans see Arizona as an opportunity to turn the tide. Biden only won in the state by 10,500 votes. Masters claims that Democrats like Kelly and Biden have “made life in America, life in Arizona, more dangerous, less affordable.”
As he entered the general election phase of the campaign, Masters appeared to change his strategy, pivoting towards more moderate stances to seemingly broaden his appeal. He removed some of his more extreme positions on abortion and the 2020 election from his website. He even acknowledged in a debate with Kelly that he had not seen any evidence of voter fraud that would have altered the outcome of the 2020 election.
He then seemed to reverse course after a phone call with Donald Trump, who allegedly encouraged him to “go stronger” on election denialism.
“Look at Kari. Kari’s winning with very little money. And if they say, ‘How is your family?’ she says the election was rigged and stolen. You’ll lose if you go soft. You’re going to lose that base,” Trump told Masters in the call that occurred some time after the debate.
Masters replied, “I'm not going soft.”
Tugging on Heartstrings
Kelly was on the campaign trail this week with Obama. He was introduced by his wife Gabby, who was seriously injured in a mass shooting in 2011 and has since become a prominent advocate for measures to prevent gun violence.
He emphasized that he had never intended to run for office before 2020, but also noted that he has dedicated his life to public service and is committed to tackling Arizona's issues.
“There is so much at stake in this election in six days,” Kelly said in his closing argument in Phoenix. “We all know guys like Blake Masters … somebody who thinks they know better than everyone about everything. Letting them make decisions for you is dangerous. So in just six days, let’s make sure that we beat him.”
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This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.