Senate Republicans are rolling out a provocative new strategy as they try to boost the GOP’s chances in Arizona next year: propping up incumbent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema.
NRSC operatives have been fretting about polls that have shown Sinema, an independent, pulling in nearly twice as many Republican voters as Democrats in a three-way race. So in a bid to keep GOP voters behind the GOP nominee while splitting the Democratic vote, they’re launching a new digital ad Monday boosting Sinema’s liberal bona fides while hammering Rep. Ruben Gallego, the likely Democratic nominee.
The new ad, titled “A Choice,” paints Sinema as being firmly behind President Joe Biden and his legislative agenda, voting with the president “100%” of the time and backing his climate initiatives in the Inflation Reduction Act. Not mentioned are the multitude of headaches and setbacks she dealt to Biden as she successfully worked to trim the IRA’s ambitions and preserve the Senate filibuster.
Conversely, the ad slams Gallego — whom the NRSC has nicknamed “Rotten Ruben” — in intensely personal terms. The spot points out that Gallego divorced his ex-wife, Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego, in 2016 just a few weeks before she gave birth to their first child, then blasts him for marrying a lobbyist, Sydney Barron, several years later. The ad closes by calling him a “deadbeat dad,” without evidence to support the claim.
Gallego declined to comment on the attack — one that suggests that Republicans are intensely worried about the early strength of his candidacy in a three-way race. The attack is risky — a Marine veteran of the Iraq War, Gallego has long been forthright about his struggles with PTSD and “survivor’s guilt,” which he blamed in his memoir for the unraveling of his first marriage.
A person close to Gallego also noted that he and his ex-wife remain “good friends” and share custody of his now 6-year-old son, who is often spotted at his side on the House floor and on the campaign trail — including in this NYT picture last month. It’s not hard to imagine the personal attack backfiring.
Casting Sinema as a “liberal Democrat,” meanwhile, might generate chuckles here in Washington, where she’s seen as a centrist spoiler. But it makes good political sense back in Arizona, where she has carefully built an aisle-crossing image — and used it to pick up support from traditional GOP voters who have been alienated by far-right candidates like Kari Lake, the bombastic former gubernatorial nominee who’s expected to win next year’s GOP Senate primary.
Sinema, notably, has yet to even announce a 2024 run. But Republicans are preparing as if she will appear on the ballot.
One strategist, speaking anonymously to candidly discuss party strategy, said the GOP’s mission is straightforward: Make any three-way race into a Republican-vs.-two-Democrats battle rather than Democrat-vs.-two-Republicans one.
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