The Arizona GOP enlisted the party’s campaigner-in-chief at a Friday rally in Mesa to boost Republican enthusiasm for U.S. Senate candidate Martha McSally and down-ballot Republicans ahead of the congressional midterm election.
President Donald Trump praised himself for appointing two conservative Supreme Court justices, cutting taxes and pushing for a border wall and insisted that progress would be lost if “radical” Democrats won control of Congress this election cycle.
“If the radical Democrats take control of Congress on Nov. 6, they will try to plunge our country into a nightmare of gridlock, poverty and chaos,” he said.
Trump also touted McSally, who spoke for about five minutes in comparison to the president’s 50 minutes, as someone who fought for her country all her life and would do the same in the Senate. The president also tore down McSally’s opponent, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema, as a “far-left extremist,” perpetuating what already has been a cutthroat and personal contest to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake.
The president praised McSally, the first female fighter pilot, as a hero for leading airstrikes against Islamic terrorists after 9/11.
“While Martha was bravely fighting the Taliban, Kyrsten said she had no problems with Americans defecting from our country to join the Taliban,” he said, referencing something Sinema said in a radio interview from the 2000s.
Sinema’s campaign has said her comments were clearly just offhand remarks that have been misconstrued.
Unofficial estimates from Mesa law enforcement was that there were about 6,300 Trump supporters inside the rally at the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport with an additional 3,000 people outside. Supporters waited in line for hours in the heat to see Trump at his only Arizona rally so far this year.
Trump also criticized Sinema for voting against his Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, a vote he said she took because House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told her to do so. Sinema voted against the bill, saying it didn’t reflect the values of hard working Americans. But Sinema, a moderate Democrat who paints herself as an independent voice in Congress, is no friend of Pelosi, having voted against keeping her as party leader in 2016.
Both Trump and McSally said Sinema voted in favor of “sanctuary cities.” But Sinema was actually one of a small group of Democrats who voted in favor of legislation to bar “sanctuary cities” from receiving federal law enforcement grants if they fail to cooperate with immigration authorities.
McSally came out swinging against her opponent, tearing Sinema down for calling Arizona “crazy” and a “meth lab of democracy.”
“I just wanted to let you know, we are not crazy here,” she said. “We are not a meth lab of democracy.”
Video recently surfaced of Sinema calling the state both things after the state Legislature passed the widely disavowed immigration bill SB1070. The phrase “meth lab of democracy” did not stem from Sinema, but rather, a late-night TV show host.
McSally drew contrasts between her and her opponent, citing her support and Sinema’s opposition to the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. McSally also supported Trump’s tax cuts plan.
McSally also brought back Sinema’s past, telling the crowd Sinema was protesting the Iraq War in a pink tutu while she was wearing a flight suit and flying into combat zones.
Trump promised his supporters that a vote for McSally would be one of the best votes they would ever cast.
“It will be the second greatest vote you’ve ever cast,” he said. “The first greatest vote was for me.”
Trump also gave shoutouts to several Republican congresspeople from Arizona at the rally. He also praised Gov. Doug Ducey, who spoke before him, as a “fantastic governor and friend of mine.”
During his brief remarks, Ducey praised Trump’s steps on immigration and tax reform and applauded him for nominating conservatives Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Ducey also twisted his Democratic opponent David Garcia’s immigration stances and criticized him for being proud to stump with Democratic socialist Bernie Sanders next week.
“Can you believe it? These guys are actually proud to stand with Bernie Sanders,” Ducey said. “Would you be proud to stand with Bernie Sanders?”
Garcia and Sanders will rally students at the University of Arizona and Arizona State University on Tuesday. Garcia has tacked to the left in his gubernatorial bid and run on a number of Sanders-style reforms, such as promising free college and calling for a single-payer health system.
Ducey also criticized Garcia’s positions on immigration, though he took liberties with some of his opponent’s stances. The governor riffed off Garcia’s speech at a progressive conference in New Orleans, in which the Democrat said, “imagine no wall in southern Arizona,”
“No wall in southern Arizona, is that the Arizona you want to imagine?” Ducey said. “No more national guard on our southern border, is that the Arizona you want to imagine? Abolish ICE, is that the Arizona you want to imagine?”
Garcia clarified his statement after the conference, saying he is opposed to Trump’s border wall. He has also said he would remove U.S. National Guard troops from the border and would replace the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
As he campaigns for re-election, Ducey has somewhat shied away from Trump as Democrats have tried to link him to the president whenever possible. Ultimately, the contentious national political environment has done little to hurt Ducey’s re-election bid.
The political newcomer and candidate for secretary of state criticized outside groups spending against his campaign and said socialism is this generation’s threat to liberty.
Gaynor, who faces Democrat Katie Hobbs, tied the argument to a history lesson on the Revolutionary War and Americans fighting for their freedom.
“It seems in every generation, a new threat to liberty arises,” he said. “This comes from those who believe socialism is better than free markets.”
Gaynor also criticized a group called iVote, which is spending millions to help get Hobbs elected. The group, which supports Democratic candidates for secretary of state, aims to get rid of voter registration because it leads to voter suppression, Gaynor noted with disdain.
While Trump stumped for McSally, Sinema was kicking off get-out-the-vote efforts with campaign volunteers in Phoenix. Her campaign put out a fundraising plea tied to Trump’s rally shortly after the president walked off stage.
Meanwhile, Garcia’s campaign criticized Ducey for supporting Trump at the rally while the president attacked American values.
“Trump has disgraced himself and the White House, attacked the free press, the rule of law and American values tonight at his rally for Ducey and McSally,” said Garcia spokeswoman Sarah Elliott. “In the face of this reckless and dangerous administration, Ducey has not once stood up for our values and sides with Trump time and again.”
State of the election
Ducey holds a comfortable lead in the polls. A Real Clear Politics average of multiple polls shows him leading Democrat David Garcia by double digits.
The contest between McSally and Sinema is much closer. Polls have consistently showed Sinema leading, but most of the polls have been so close that the results are within the margin of error.
Gaynor and Hobbs are close in the polls, but Gaynor leads his Democratic opponent.
Voters will head to the polls on Nov. 6.