The Wall Street Journal touts as its “exclusive” today the news that everyone has been expecting for months: “Kari Lake will announce a run for Kyrsten Sinema’s Senate seat next month.”
Congrats to Eliza Collins for nailing this scoop, but what’s certainly not news are the fever dynamics in Arizona taking shape for 2024. With the 2022 Senate race decided by only 17,000 votes – votes that many in the state decline to concede to this day, and the 2020 presidential race even closer at 10,000 still-contested votes, the 2024 Senate race would be hotly contested no matter the candidates.
But with Kari Lake preparing to announce her candidacy for the Republican nomination, Independent incumbent Kyrsten Sinema reportedly already forming the infrastructure for a third-party run, and Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-CD3) looking like a lock for the Democratic nomination, the table is set for a November barn burner.
Many see a path for Lake. Sinema is not a typical third-party candidate who can only be expected to take a sliver from one of the major-party candidates. Nor is she a pure centrist who allows unlimited room on her left and right. After years of positioning herself throughout the state as a leftist reformer, it will be difficult for Gallego to portray her as a closet Republican. Especially with Lake, providing a clear contrast to the right.
Meanwhile, national Democrats cannot afford to completely bail on Sinema. With the Senate essentially a tie, Sinema and her fellow maverick Joe Manchin (D-WVa) wield uncommon power, making it harder for her former fellows in the Democratic Party to speak out — and fundraise — against her.
The Journal quotes some Lake skeptics, including Chris Baker, who advises Rep. David Schweikert (R-CD1), the six-time Congressman who now represents a competitive redrawn 1st District. Schweikert won in 22 by less than 4000 votes and has managed to hang on to some of the suburban women and moderate Republicans who were key to swinging the state to Biden and Hobbs in ‘20 and ‘22. Baker told the Journal, “Until candidates realize that we can’t win statewide here without suburban Republican and independent voters, we’re going to continue to lose.”
Others believe that the issue pendulum is actually swinging toward a more confrontational candidate like Lake. The out-of-control situation at the border has even high-profile Democrats like New York City Mayor Eric Adams harshly criticizing the Biden Administration. So it’s harder to paint Lake as a right-wing extremist for saying the same, and her consistency on the issue should help her with all voters.
The same may be true on the issue of aid to Ukraine. Lake was an early skeptic of American funding, at a time when Ukraine aid enjoyed broad bipartisan support and Volodymyr Zelenskyy was being welcomed to address the Congress. As the war has dragged on despite the tens of billions the US has spent, that skepticism is growing. Zelenskyy’s recent visit to the US for UN Week didn’t merit an official visit to the Capitol. And if next year’s economy produces either the “soft landing” Democrats are hoping for or the hard recession others are predicting, Lake’s early voice of caution about sending billions overseas may look more prescient than reckless.
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