There's something to be said about beginner's luck. But for Arizona Republican Senate nominee Blake Masters, his luck seems to be running out. And now he's feeling the heat, illuminating a new, iron-fisted side of the Republican Party — a side that's frightening in its pragmatism.
Blake Masters, the Republican Senate challenger to Mark Kelly, fits perfectly into the MAGA archetype, even winning an endorsement from Trump himself. And yet, in a seemingly uncharacteristic political move, Sen. Mitch McConnell slashed ad funding for the candidate right before the crucial Arizona general election in November.
What could have possibly been McConnell’s rationale?
The answer is complicated, and reflective of the GOP's changing political strategy. In recent years, Arizona has established itself as a battleground state with its usually reliable Republican voting base. Up until recently, the GOP had a strong grasp, according to Marcus Dell’Artino, a long-time political consultant and currently a partner at First Strategic.
“Six months ago, it’s fair to say that the generic ballot heavily favored Republicans in Arizona," Dell'Artino said. "It was going to be a mammoth red tidal wave. We were thinking Mark Kelly would be in trouble.”
The momentum all changed after the unexpected upheaval of Roe v. Wade by the Supreme Court. Since then, Dell’Artino notes that nationally Democrats outperformed their historical norms in special elections.
This puts Masters, a candidate previously backed by former President Trump and co-founder of PayPal Peter Thiel, in a precarious position. The GOP’s financial priorities shifted from trying to ride the red wave to protecting senators, who would ordinarily be safe, according to Dell'Artino.
Due to Trump receiving a large amount of fundraising while the rest of the GOP struggles, Masters already had less money to work with. Following Thiel’s rebuff of Mitch McConnell, he suddenly found himself $8 million short on funding.
Worse, Dell’Artino highlights the fact that the money was pulled out of TV ad reservations. Essentially, even if Thiel relents and invests more money into Masters’ campaign, there wouldn’t be enough ad space left on TV to spend the money on.
One question remains: Why was Masters the doomed Republican candidate, and not someone else?
Kim Fridkin, a foundation professor at ASU’s School of Politics and Global Studies and contributor for several prominent political publications, notes that negative campaigning played a part.
“The negative campaigning was a reflection that (Masters) isn’t a moderate candidate, that he’s an extreme candidate," Fridkin said. "This caused both the negative campaigning and caused the money to be allocated elsewhere."
Part of that extremism was Masters’ notoriously puritanical stance on abortion, calling it "demonic" and "a religious sacrifice," and backing a national ban.
Despite his efforts to scrub the stance off his campaign site, it continues to haunt his public image. According to Dell’Artino, women are the “golden goose” of the upcoming election. White women are a sought-after voter demographic for the GOP, consistently voting Republican since 1952, with over 55% voting for Trump in 2020.
Following the overturning of Roe v. Wade, it would have been wise for Blake Masters to soften his abortion stance as to not upset this key voting group. White women have typically enjoyed better access to abortion relative to women of color, but now the overturn of Roe has put that into jeopardy.
This changed with the unexpected Supreme Court decision that put their previously granted right in jeopardy. With his reckless anti-abortion remarks, Blake Masters may have sealed his own figurative political coffin, aptly punished for not researching his voter base.
Masters' situation reveals how ruthlessly tactical the GOP is becoming to save its Senate seats. The GOP is willing to sabotage a popular candidate and abandon ship in a battleground state in order to reach its political objectives. Although McConnell likely made the right call, given he has other candidates to attend to, that doesn't necessarily negate the unflinching and even pitiless way he cut off a once-favorite pawn.
This reveals a new side of the Republican Party, one that is cold, pragmatic and vicious in its execution. Instead of focusing on former President Trump's latest antics or yet another Blake Masters-esque political blunder, we need to pull back the curtains and get a glimpse of the true GOP—one that would stop at nothing to win. Even if it means taking out one of its own.
Edited by Sadie Buggle, Logan Stanley and Kristen Apolline Castillo.
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Editor's note: The opinions presented in this column are the author's and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.
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