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Salena Zito’s latest column, “Trump’s not the reason the GOP sputtered in Ohio,” points to continued failure by Republican operatives to accept the message sent by the voters that they must get to the polls in November. Listen to the candidates and the independent PAC ads in your state. How are they doing? It is a mixed bag here in Arizona, so far, but both serious Republican contenders for the US Senate are proclaiming alignment with President Trump.
Salena Zito points to the importance of demonstrating awareness and concern for local issues. Waving around a few national talking points is not a recipe for success.
To identify with your voters is to be present with your voters. Every Republican House candidate running should be on the ground in their district, discussing local issues and refusing national cookie cutter ads made by people who have never stepped foot on their Main Street.
Whether it’s the suburban mom or the blue-collar worker, voters will be willing to listen and connect with a candidate who makes them feel part of their community — and part of something bigger than themselves.
Part of the challenge for candidates is the legal wall between their campaign and independent PACs that purport to be on their side. Consider the example of an anti-Trump establishment GOP PAC, styling itself “DefendArizona.” The Arizona Republic reported on their entry into this primary season.
On Saturday, DefendArizona, a group led by wealthy Arizona donors who often resisted President Donald Trump early in his 2016 campaign, reported that it was spending $958,000 to oppose former state Sen. Kelli Ward.
DefendArizona, a relatively new political-action committee, has drawn financial support from GOP fundraisers familiar to Arizona politics, such as Randy Kendrick, Paul Baker and Craig Barrett. The group has also reserved time supporting McSally in the fall.
This group’s bright idea was to run a radio ad on conservative talk stations attacking Kelli Ward for seeking to limit Arizona government cooperation with NSA snooping on Americans. The ad tries to compare the Democrats’ sanctuary cities with the bipartisan popular opposition to the unchecked powers of the NSA. This ad is running at the same time that the Republican base is hearing about FISA abuses, for the purpose of defeating the 2016 Republican presidential candidate, and then to overturn or undermine the election results. So who thought that running scary ads comparing the two, but praising cooperation with the NSA, was a good strategy? What part of the primary electorate is supposed to be motivated?
Note that Jeff Flake’s springboard into politics was with the Goldwater Institute, not an advocate for an unchecked surveillance state. In an article about litigation over the same NSA program, Arizona State Senator Kelli Ward sought to counter with state legislation, and a Goldwater Institute representative was quoted on the side of Article III courts taking jurisdiction over FISA court decisions.
Nick Dranias, director of the Goldwater Institute’s Center for Constitutional Government, says Leon likely does have the power to review FISC cases.
Dranias, who has argued before the Supreme Court, said “my argument would be that the FISA court would not be a full and fair litigation of the underlying constitutional issues because you don’t have an adversarial process” and also that “the Constitution directly vests Article III courts with the power to decide constitutional issues.”
While an anti-Trump PAC attacks Kelli Ward for failing to uncritically support the NSA, both Ward and McSally are busy posturing as the true Trump supporter. They attack each other as not true conservatives, not true Trump supporters, and not trustworthy on MAGA issues. Reports from other states where President Trump won suggest that successful primary candidates at least are getting that their electorates expect support for the MAGA agenda.
In the Wisconsin race for Senate, both Republican candidates aligned themselves with President Trump and getting results for Wisconsin. State Senator Leah Vukmir won.
During their final debate, neither candidate could come up with one thing Trump had done that they would push back on.
“I look at President Trump’s agenda and say it’s a darn good one,” Nicholson said.
Vukmir said, “a liberal elite and the media want nothing more than to bring this president down. I want to see President Trump succeed. When he succeeds, America succeeds.”
Vukmir’s campaign accords with Salena Zito’s admonition about reaching independents and suburban voters with old-fashioned local issues and face-to-face campaigning.
Down in the polls for months, Vukmir relied on an old-fashioned get-out-the-vote ground game to defeat Kevin Nicholson — and the big money behind him — and claim the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate Tuesday.
She promised to take the fight to Baldwin in the fall.
“Tammy Baldwin has forgotten about the people of this great state and come November this nurse, this mom with a cause is going to send Tammy Baldwin back to the private sector she doesn’t even know exists,” Vukmir said.
Next door to Wisconsin, Minnesota Republicans chose an upstart over a former governor to be their gubernatorial candidate. As John Hinderaker wrote of the Minnesota primaries:
Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson defeated former Governor Tim Pawlenty for the GOP governor nomination.
Pawlenty’s campaign was unfocused. He likes to think of himself as a futurist, talking about possible technological breakthroughs that might impact public policy issues. Fine. Meanwhile, Johnson was talking about bread and butter conservative issues: lower taxes, reduced spending, cutting government waste, less regulation, making Minnesota competitive.
Minnesota Republican candidates will have to really step up both the local issues and the MAGA theme to drive turnout in the general election. DFL turnout was about twice the Republican turnout. This matters most to the statewide offices, whereas House districts may serve as breakwaters to a blue wave, causing Democrats to pile up huge margins in some districts while narrowly losing others.
Across the competitive states, successful Republican primary candidates are identifying themselves with President Trump’s voters. This, by itself, will not be enough to win comfortably in November. Good candidates are doing as Candidate Trump did, getting out on the ground and identifying with voters’ issues that have been overlooked. As Salena Zito wrote: “That’s why Trump won in 2016 and forged his coalition in the first place.”
How are your state’s candidates doing?