Arizona Republican Old Guard Takes On Trump Again

 July 21, 2022

In an effort to prevent the return of former President Donald Trump to power, the old guard of the Republican Party, is now laying it all on the line in the Arizona gubernatorial primary.

Bursting out into the wide open, just two weeks ahead of the August 2 primary elections there, a proxy war between Trump and some actors of the old guard has broken out into a head on skirmish. This kind of battle has been seen in other states like Georgia and Nebraska, in gubernatorial primaries this year also.

Determined to stop Trump, the GOP old guard is using this battleground in Arizona, to be open in the war that establishment forces are using explicitly to make their intentions, to oppose Trump, very clear. As an example, former Republican National Committee chairman and former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbourtold, told the New York Times-

“I don’t think anyone is inevitable.” Maybe so, but the donor class betting it all against Trump especially if they lose in McCain’s home state…[could very well make a Trump comeback that much more] “inevitable.”

- Haley Barbourtold, former Republican National Committee Chairman

With victories and losses seen on both sides, the battle has been playing out all year. There have been far more wins for Trump and far more losses for the old guard establishment, though some early strategically-placed victories for the old guard had some wondering if Trump had lost his stride.

In U.S. Senate primary endorsements so far this cycle, and endorsements across 23 states, especially after a win this week in Maryland’s gubernatorial primary against Never Trump-Gov. Larry Hogan’s (R) handpicked candidate, Trumps record is perfect.

The establishment, however, delivered victories for its candidates against Trumps in a few places like several races in Georgia and Nebraska’s gubernatorial primary. Trumps wins though indicate a former president, firmly in control of the future of his party, with his 147–10 record overall nationwide. This is especially true in light of the fact that many of these wins occurred in heavily contested primaries, such as Senate races in Ohio or North Carolina or the gubernatorial primary in Maryland.

This Friday will likely be one of the biggest skirmishes yet, as Trump and former vice president, Mike Pence, will be both appearing in Arizona, campaigning in separate parts of the state in support of opposing candidates. This diametrically opposed effort, just two weeks ahead of Election Day, with ballots already out, and people already voting early by mail, will be the most direct contrast this ongoing proxy war, for control of the party, has seen this year.

On the heels of Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), an ardent Trump foe, predicting that if Trump runs again in 2024 he will face a crowded field, this contest is sure to test Trumps mettle. Some contenders to oppose Trump in the 2024 race could possibly include: former Vice President Pence, former cabinet officials, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), and some U.S. senators who may consider it.

Playing out behind the scenes with consultants and party power brokers trying to change the landscape, to deliver advantages to their favored candidates, Fridays events in Arizona could be a major preview of what is to come in the months and years ahead for Trump and for the party as a whole.

Trump’s candidate in this race is Kari Lake, is a former longtime local television anchor running a fervently pro-America First campaign, focused largely on taking on the Republican establishment. Lake plans an appearance alongside Trump, on Friday, for a rally in Prescott Valley. According to Breitbart News, Lake stated that the “McCain machine” is at play in her race, referencing  the late Arizona Republican, John McCain, who served as Arizona U.S. senator for more than three decades.  She further added-

[McCain has] “his hand up, pulling up from the grave, trying to hold on to complete control of Arizona, and the America First MAGA movement is saying, No, it’s not going to go that way this time,”

-Kari Lake, Arizona Gubernatorial Candidate

Businesswoman Karrin Taylor Robson, Lake’s top rival, who has deep pockets and a vast array of backers, intent on tipping the scales in this contentious race, has nearly tripled Lake in fundraising by self-funding more than half of her money raised. Robson is backed by Pence, as well as Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R).

Marking his most public divergence from Trump yet, as he vouches for Robson, in the same state and the same day Trump will be rallying for Lake, Pence’s appearance this Friday will stand in open contrast, for the old guard. This is not the first time Pence has bucked his former president, as he backed Kemp in Georgia, even sending staff down to help the governor and held an event with him in the final days.

Offering the latest test of Trump’s strength in primaries for state executives, this inter-GOP fight will be very telling. Trumps perfect record in Senate endorsements and most House endorsements, except for a couple in Georgia are much more national political fights, than gubernatorial races. In gubernatorial primaries, Trump has had a more mixed record,

Easily winning against primary opponents earlier this year, Trump picks, Govs. Greg Abbott of Texas and Kristi Noem of South Dakota, among others, were a positive for the former president. But when Trump went after Kemp in Georgia, it did not go as well.

Likewise, it did not work either, when Trump tried to upset the local powers-that-be in Nebraska with outright opposition, against the hand-picked successor of the outgoing Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) , who is a member of the powerful Ricketts family of TD Ameritrade donor class wealth and fame. In other open governor primaries, like in Maryland this week and in Nevada earlier this summer, Trump picks have been more successful.

It seems the old guard is getting eager to knock Trump out, challenging him more aggressively in some of the later primaries, instead of just being satisfied with their wins earlier this year and moving on. In Missouri’s competitive U.S. Senate primary, the old guard forces are firmly against former Gov. Eric Greiten. Trump has not yet made an endorsement. He has said, he is opposed to Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) but has not narrowed down further between Greitens and Attorney General Eric Schmit.

In Arizona, Trump seems to be invested fully in the governor’s primary, as well as their U.S. Senate primary race. Blake Masters, Trumps choice seems to be sailing into the nomination without facing resistance from the establishment forces, like are active in the governor race.

Essentially, if the establishment fails to stop Lake, Trumps choice, they effectively clear the way for him in 2024 and give the former president, a massive shot of momentum, making his potential victory possible. According to the New York Times, Trump, who is expected to make a third run for president in 2024, repeatedly floating the idea publicly, during rallies this year, has “accelerated his planning in recent weeks.”

Taking Trump on in a presidential primary contest, Pence has not ruled himself out, though his polling has not exceeded single digits, regularly coming in behind DeSantis, whom polls show Republicans favor should Trump not  run. When polled against them all, Trump, leads significantly, with polls showing him up as much as 30 points nationally over everyone else.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.”

-Winston Churchill
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