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Tipsheet

How Sinema's Bolting From the Democratic Party Could Lead to...Senator Kari Lake

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) left the Democratic Party, which doesn’t have much benefit for Republicans. I don’t think anyone thought this would be a net positive politically for the GOP as nothing changed: Democrats still control the chamber. Yet, it could get interesting when Sinema has to run again in 2024, given the animosity between the Arizona Senator and her state’s Democratic Party. Arizona Democrats have already censured Sinema for not wanting to nuke the filibuster. Sinema’s move was solely grounded in avoiding a primary challenge—that’s it.

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She’s still at the helm of this heinous immigration package she’s cooked up with Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC), which will place millions of illegal aliens on the citizenship track. It’s an amnesty bill that will screw Republicans and give Democrats not just immediate credit for the legislation but electoral dividends decades down the road, as they would have created millions of new potential Democratic voters. What’s going to be interesting is how Chuck Schumer treats her. 

Schumer has enough reasons to punish her but opted to allow her to keep her committee assignments. The real drama doesn’t involve him, as those with the most beef with Sinema are back in her home state. Should Sinema run again in a couple of years, she will undoubtedly face a Democratic challenger. This situation could open the way for a Republican to retake the seat in a year that looks like a political killing field for Senate Democrats. In a year where so much territory needs defending, a state-based civil war in a crucial battleground state might not be a desirable outcome. Especially since that situation could pave the way for Senator Kari Lake potentially (via Axios )[emphasis mine]:

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Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema's stunning decision to become an independent has triggered the possibility of a blue-on-purple civil war that could cost Democrats a must-win Senate seat in 2024.

The big picture: In the last three elections, Democrats have won unlikely victories in traditionally red Arizona because a critical mass of independents and moderate Republicans couldn't stomach MAGA-aligned GOP nominees.

Sinema would have had difficulty winning a primary. But she can win a general election — and might even be the favorite — if no Democrat of consequence runs.

But if moderate and progressive Democrats split, her move risks handing the Senate seat to a Republican nominee — potentially a right-wing candidate like Kari Lake.

What to watch: The White House and Democrats' Senate campaign arm will have two crucial decisions to make: 

If Sinema runs for re-election, will they endorse her independent candidacy, preempting a serious Democratic challenger? 

Or will they rally behind a Democrat like Rep. Ruben Gallego, risking a messy general election that could hand her seat over to a Republican?

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But as with anything this far out, we’ll have to wait and see.

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