Donald Trump has endorsed Abe Hamadeh for Congress in the Eighth Congressional District. But Blake Masters, also vying for the nomination, apparently would prefer voters remain unaware of that inconvenient truth.
In fact, Trump not only endorsed Hamadeh, but his remarks were unusually strong and personal in favor of Abe’s candidacy, predicting the military veteran will be “a true WARRIOR in Congress, and always put America First!” As Arizona Globe wrote in covering the critical endorsement, “Careful students of Trump semaphore will recognize the capital letters and exclamation points as a particularly sincere expression of support, rather than staff-written boilerplate.”
And yet, on Blake Masters’ campaign website and on his campaign’s YouTube page, the first image one sees is a photo of Blake with the former president. The campaign is clearly hoping to create a linkage in voters’ minds. These are holdover images from Blake’s unsuccessful Senate run in 2022, but they’re being used to promote his Congressional candidacy in 2024, a race in which President Trump has already enthusiastically endorsed Blake’s opponent.
Arizona Globe has chronicled the already highly contentious battle for the Republican nomination in Arizona’s Eighth congressional district, where Debbie Lesko’s surprising decision not to seek re-election set off a frenzy of activity from high-profile candidates in the reliably red-leaning seat.
The three best known candidates—Abe Hamadeh, Ben Toma, and Blake Masters— have each released the names of several Republicans backing their campaigns.
Masters has support from well-known federal figures such as Ohio Senator JD Vance and Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar. Arizona House Speaker Toma is supported by many of his fellow state legislators, including Justin Wilmeth, who endorsed yesterday, as well as the outgoing Lesko. And Hamadeh enjoys the support of both Arizona and federal figures including Kari Lake, Wendy Rogers, Sonny Borelli, Janae Shamp and Justine Wadsack; former state GOP chair Kelli Ward, Amb. Ric Grenell, Kash Patel and former NYPD Commissioner and national treasure Bernard Kerik.
But the Globe is of the opinion that only one endorsement really matters in a contested Republican primary and it’s the seal of approval from the 45th president of the United States. That’s especially true this year, in which the former president will be on the primary ballot and it’s likely, given the results of the first two contests, to be well on his way to a unanimous victory in that primary.
In my experience as a close observer of Trump—and I might be the only person still standing who actually held serious in-person discussions with him back in 2011 when he was looking at 2012 and was nearly defenestrated in 2016 for allegedly being too close to the candidate—there’s almost nothing Trump dislikes more than someone misleadingly claiming support from him in order to advance his own interests. Trump the businessman, just like Trump the political figure, zealously guards the value of his brand, and pays careful attention when deciding with whom to associate that brand.
It’s not like the photos Masters has posted are Photoshopped. They’re just obsolete. Trump did indeed endorse Masters in his 2022 Senate race. However, Masters lost that race and lost by a much larger margin (almost 5%) than Kari Lake lost her governor’s race (less than 1%) or Abe Hamadeh lost his attorney general race (less than 0.1%). Trump pays attention to these details and so does his team.
In fact, it has been widely reported that Trump discouraged Masters from taking another shot at the US Senate this year after Masters’ 5-point loss in 2022,
The Globe asked Masters why his campaign website and YouTube are featuring images of the former President, despite Trump having backed Hamadeh.
“Voters know that Trump has backed me before and they rightly see me as the most conservative, pro-Trump candidate in the race,” Masters told the Arizona Globe. “I happen to know that some biased advisors lied to Trump about the polling in this race to get Abe’s endorsement. It happens. But voters know me better than Abe, they trust me more, and I’m going to have a lot more resources to get my message out.”
That may be accurate about the resources—Masters is claiming to have raised $1.3 million so far, compared to roughly $300k each for Toma and Hamadeh. (Hamadeh is also being supported by a PAC that has about $1M in it.) But will it matter? Masters, a protégé of billionaire Peter Thiel and the former president of the Thiel Foundation, received approximately $20 million from Peter Thiel in 2022. According to the Washington Post, Thiel contributed “$15 million into a super PAC that helped make Blake Masters the Republican nominee for Senate in Arizona.” Then when the national Republicans saw the general election slipping away and withdrew support, Thiel spent “as much as $5 million more.” That’s a hell of a lot of dough to spend in attracting 75,000 fewer votes than Lake and 58,000 fewer than Hamadeh, who was down ballot from Masters.
Furthermore, if there’s one thing that seems to irritate the former president even more than bogarting his brand, it’s associating with his antagonists. Not only has Masters relied on support from Thiel, who has declined to support the former president after backing him in 2016 and being rewarded with a prime time speaking slot at the RNC, but the Arizona Globe has unearthed connections to prominent Nikki Haley backers, as well.
Blake Masters’ campaign consultant is Hooff Cooksey of Look Ahead Strategies. Cooksey also works for Nikki Haley, having served as her state director in Iowa. Cooksey had previously served as campaign manager for Kim Reynolds, who endorsed Ron DeSantis in the Hawkeye State. Cooksey also worked for Mitch McConnell’s NRSC. In other words, his resume is dripping with Never Trump types.
And this is not a one-off fluke. Last Tuesday, Casidy and Michael Ferneding hosted a reception for Blake Masters at their home in Scottsdale. Their fundraiser is Kelly Molique of the Lovas Company. Meanwhile, Corinne Lovas and Teresa Wright of Lovas Co. are also raising money for Nikki Haley’s presidential run. The Globe has reached out to Ms. Molique to ask if she is soliciting Masters donors for funds for Haley; this story will be updated if she chooses to reply.
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