Discovering the need for RINOs
Ward's letter to McConnell was curious and instructive.
The letter the Arizona Republican Party, led by chairwoman Kelli Ward, sent to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was curious and instructive. It asked that McConnell’s PAC spend massively on an independent expenditure campaign on behalf of Blake Masters’ bid for the U.S. Senate.
Masters won the primary on the basis of a big-bucks independent expenditure campaign by his former boss, tech mogul Peter Thiel, and the endorsement of Donald Trump.
Since the primary, there has been a stare down between Thiel and McConnell over who would assume the financial responsibility for Masters’ campaign in the general election. According to reports, McConnell’s position is that Masters was Thiel’s pick in the primary, so Thiel should also open his wallet for the general. Thiel’s position is that assisting GOP nominees in the general falls to Republican independent expenditure organizations that exist for that purpose, including McConnell’s PAC.
Largely overlooked is how much all this diminishes Masters. Everyone assumes he is incapable of raising the money to run a competitive campaign on his own.
Independent expenditure campaigns are an important factor in elections. But candidates shouldn’t be wholly dependent on them.
As a first-time candidate in 2020, Mark Kelly raised sufficient funds on his own to conduct a competitive campaign. As an incumbent, he has been a fundraising machine. He benefits from Democratic independent expenditure campaigns. He isn’t dependent on them.
Ward pleading with McConnell to bail out Masters’ underfunded general election operation is rich.
She has been at war with what she and Trump call RINOs, Republicans in Name Only. The RINO pejorative predates Trump, but he has made it his own. It is now used to describe anyone in the party who doesn’t pledge fealty to Trump and his Big Lie that he actually won the 2020 presidential election.
I’ve never understood why Trumpers thought this pejorative packed such a punch. Why would anyone who was actually a Republican in name only, whose affiliation with the party was weak and tenuous, be bothered by being called a RINO?
The politics of it was always stupid. If there are voters who lean your way but aren’t fully committed, insulting them and saying they are unwelcome isn’t much of a path to victory.
But purging the party of RINOs was Ward’s objective. And she saw the Arizona primary results as vindication, an all MAGA ticket.
McConnell has been a particular object of ire for the Trumpers. Trump has denounced him many times over and called for someone else to lead Republicans in the Senate.
So now, Ward goes hat in hand to McConnell asking him to bail out Trump’s endorsed U.S. Senate candidate in Arizona, who can’t raise the money to get his voice heard. Meanwhile Trump is sitting on bales of cash he has raised but is hoarding. Apparently it would be impolite for Ward to ask Trump to stump up the dough to give Masters a fighting chance.
MAGA Republicans are maybe a fifth to a quarter of the Arizona electorate. That’s enough to win a Republican primary these days, but not enough to win a general election. To win a statewide general election, a Republican candidate needs the votes of RINOs and a reasonable share of independents. And, apparently, also some RINO money.
Having succeeded with the purge, MAGA candidates now need the support of those they have scorned, insulted, and declared unwelcome in the Republican Party.
You can almost see reality dawning in their eyes: In a general election, without RINOs, they lose.
Reach Robb at firstname.lastname@example.org.