That Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) switched her party affiliation from Democrat to Independent last year already made the 2024 Senate race more interesting, despite how she's yet to declare her intentions to run for reelection. Last month, Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) formally declared his candidacy, and just as he did before getting officially involved in the race, he has already gone after Sinema. When it comes to unseating Sinema, or, if she doesn't run, picking up an open seat, there's been chatter that Republicans will nominate Kari Lake, who ran for governor last November and narrowly lost to Katie Hobbs.
On Wednesday morning, weeks later after Lake's run was teased, though, Republican chances were mentioned in no less than three articles.
Writing for The Hill, Al Weaver included the Senate races as part of many races the Republican Party is looking to win, writing "GOP moves to stop unelectable Senate candidates." When it comes to Arizona, he wrote about the losses from 2022 which didn't just involve the governor's race, but the Senate as well:
But Republicans are hoping to pick up seats in 2024 by defeating Democrats running in otherwise red or purple states like Ohio, West Virginia, Montana, Arizona and Pennsylvania — and they’re looking for formidable candidates.
They’re also looking at 2022 as a cautionary tale of sorts.
In New Hampshire and Arizona, two purple states, Gov. Chris Sununu (R) and then-Gov. Doug Ducey (R) decided against running. Don Bolduc and Blake Masters, political newcomers who tied themselves to Trump, advanced to the general election and were handily defeated.
[Sen. Rick] Scott declined to comment directly on the committee’s decision to reinsert itself in primaries, saying, “It’s a choice they get to make.”
While Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) was once considered a vulnerable incumbent, he managed to fend off a challenge from Republican opponent Blake Masters, winning 51.40 percent of the vote to Masters' 46.51 percent.
Earlier on Wednesday, POLITICO published an even closer deep dive on Arizona, on how "Arizona Republicans fear they may blow it again."
As the piece bluntly begins with, "Kyrsten Sinema’s defection from Democrats should be a golden opportunity for the GOP. But two high-profile 2022 election losers in Arizona are eyeing Senate runs in 2024, sparking angst among Republicans that they will blow an increasingly winnable race."
Masters is also mentioned early on, as he is considering another run. "Some Arizona GOP strategists are treating it as a foregone conclusion that he’ll jump in, although a person familiar with his moves said he is truly undecided at this point and just testing the waters," the report notes.
When it comes to Lake's decision, "a person close to her" says that'll be made after her lawsuit over the governor's race.
The conversation between Republicans, including those already in the Senate, like Sen. John Thune (R-SD), appears to be the same one concerning former and potentially future President Donald Trump, which is what to focus on in future elections:
“Any candidate in ’24 that has, as their principal campaign theme, a stolen election, is probably going to have the same issues that some of the ’22 candidates had,” said Sen. John Thune, the Senate GOP’s No. 2 leader. “I just don’t think that’s where the American public is. It’s a swing state — we need to have a good Republican nominee, obviously. You know, whoever gets in, I hope they focus on the future, not the past.”
Far from being bowed by what happened in 2022, the MAGA set in Arizona appear further emboldened to try for office. Caroline Wren, a senior adviser to Lake, shot back that Thune is “everything wrong with the Republican establishment” and that the “Washington cartel” is “signaling that they’re willing to hand an Arizona Senate seat to the radical left.”
Few, if any, states in the country present as clear a testing ground for the future of the Republican Party as Arizona. For decades a bastion of conservatism and libertarianism, the state is drifting leftward. Democrats have won three straight Senate races, the last governor’s race and the presidential race in 2020. What’s more, primaries are typically held late in Arizona, making it tougher for challengers to consolidate support before the general election.
“Just look at what happened in the last two elections. You in no way have to guess what happens when MAGA candidates ignore bread-and-butter issues that Arizonans care about,” said Barrett Marson, an Arizona-based GOP strategist. “Kari Lake is not governor. Blake Masters is not senator. Republicans have to get back to basics.”
The trends have alarmed more establishment Republicans, who are privately discussing ways to head them off. GOP consultants have gone so far as to encourage Masters to run for the House instead of the Senate due to his high unfavorability ratings and the exorbitant amount of money it would take to rehabilitate his reputation in a statewide race, according to a person familiar with the conversations. Republicans believe Lake and Masters are unlikely to run against each other.
Fox News, with a report from Sophia Slacik, covered how "Republicans worry Kari Lake and Blake Masters will lose Arizona Senate race again in 2024," which cited Sen. Thune's remarks in the POLITICO report.
Matt also touched upon the candidate quality argument recently, when examining how Republican voters defected to Democrats, in part by admitting he was wrong on ticket-splitting.
There's no denying that 2022 was a disappointing year for Republicans. While the party still picked up the House, they did so narrowly, days after Election Night. The Senate was always going to be a bit more tricky, but was seen as doable. Democrats not only held control, they grew their ranks in that body, as Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA) replaced retiring Pat Toomey, the Republican who had held the seat before him. Such results not only didn't result in a red wave, they defied expectations, polls, and historical precedence.
That being said, the Senate map truly is different for 2024. It heavily favors Republicans. Even with all the potential shenanigans going on in the Republican Party, including and especially in Arizona, The Hill's Max Greenwood included Arizona as a state where the Senate seat might flip. There's still hope, especially if Democrats are in disarray over their primary.