In two weeks or so the Republican primary for U.S. Senate will be over, although judging by the millions of dollars being spent to boost McSally and to attack Kelli Ward, it may already be all but over. So it is a good time to write a series of thoughts I have been allowing to ferment over the last several months. Actually, going all the way back to when many conservative figures were considering jumping into this primary after Jeff Flake dropped out. At the time there seemed to be a consensus that a solid conservative would clear the field, that Kelli Ward was not considered heavyweight enough to do so, and that in the absence of a heavyweight conservative, the establishment would find a more liberal candidate to support, with Martha McSally’s name most frequently mentioned.
I may not have a complete list, but President Trump himself encouraged Robert Graham, Jeff DeWit and others to run. Other solid names like Matt Salmon, David Schweikert, and Paul Gosar were also circulated. And make no mistake, each of these individuals seriously considered the race.
In advance, let me say that I’ve filled out my ballot for Kelli Ward and I know her fairly well. So when I’m writing that we needed a stronger candidate it doesn’t come from any animosity towards Kelli. But some candidates are only ever going to get pounded by the media, they’re going to be held to a double standard designed to embarrass them publicly, and they’re going to be starved out by the establishment. And if they do win a primary, they’ll be abandoned by many of their party’s donors and supporters, who would prefer a Democrat to someone like Kelli. Outside of the occasional social media error none of that is Kelli’s fault per se, but she ran against John McCain and in the eyes of the establishment that remains an unforgiveable sin here in Arizona. The establishment will never support her, for anything. And in a competitive year like 2018, that is a real problem if you’re trying to keep the Senate seat in the GOP column.
The rest of the names on that list would not have had that problem. Each of them would have raised a phenomenal sum of money, most of them would have the implicit if not explicit backing of the President, and they would have been able to begin focusing on the general election almost right away. Most importantly, they would have given Arizona a legitimate shot at having a conservative United States Senator. It is even possible that they might have kept Sinema from the contest in the first place.
Which is why I, like so many other conservatives, am so frustrated at the lot of them. Each of them understood the need that Arizona and our country had, each of them must have recognized the incredible advantage they would have, running such a race with White House support, yet each of them took a pass. For some it was a family-related decision or a business related-decision, which has some merit and earns some forgiveness. The others simply lacked the courage or were far too comfortable where they were and had no desire to risk it for any greater good. Those are not acceptable reasons, and when the time comes that some of those same individuals decide they are ready to seek higher office, and they come to the grassroots to seek our support, inevitably claiming that they feel “called” to a greater mission, we will remember that they were not there for us when we needed them, and we will remember why. If their reason was family-related they can expect a certain amount of grace. If it was something else, they should not.
The end result of their collective failure to step up will likely be a general election matchup between Martha McSally and Kyrsten Sinema, with the ultimate loser being Arizona and a nation that simply cannot afford to continue on its current path of fiscal irresponsibility, a slowly eroding international stature, a decaying military, and a seemingly irreversible cultural slide. In short, our choice will be which of the two candidates will preside over a slower national decline. The conservatives who could have saved us from this have let us down. And we should remember that in the future when they come back to us seeking our support to further their personal ambitions.
One final note: Between the time these thoughts first started to filter and now, the one person who redeemed himself was Representative Paul Gosar. Everyone on this list recognized that Martha McSally would be a step to the left relative to John McCain or Jeff Flake, and none of them were willing to put themselves in harm’s way to stop it. At least Congressman Gosar, recognizing that Kelli Ward was trying to do the right thing and that McSally was the wrong choice, had the courage to step up publicly and support her. Frankly, if everyone on this list had done so early on, it would have had a very substantial impact on the primary itself.
It would have also been nice to see a group of conservatives rally around another conservative without being so scared of the consequences. Remember that they would not have been all alone in supporting Ward, who has been endorsed by Senator Rand Paul and other notables, including Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and more. What minimal amount of bravery is required for a purported conservative to stand with Paul, Hannity, and Ingraham? If Congressman Gosar determines at some future date that he is finally ready to seek higher office, I will not have any hesitation in supporting him, because he alone has shown some measure of courage. And saving our country will require a great deal of courage.