By Recker McDowell —
U.S. Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Arizona) has seen her regional and national profile rise via her full-throated defenses of President Donald Trump and jabs at Democrats during the impeachment hearings.
Like it or not. Good or bad. Lesko, a former state lawmaker representing the West Valley, is very much a face of the Republican Party in Arizona (and even nationally).
That is a marked change from when the late John McCain and the now retired Jeff Flake served in the U.S. Senate. They were front and center in criticizing Trump during and after his successful 2016 presidential run.
Those days are mostly over in the Republican Party with ‘never-Trumpers’ increasingly pushed out of party politics. The result is a rise of pro-Trump advocates such as Lesko, U.S. Rep. Andy Biggs and Arizona Republican Party Chairman Kelli Ward.
Lesko and Biggs, who both brandished their conservative credentials in the Arizona Legislature and are increasingly Fox News favorites for their support for Trump, are part of the new normal in the GOP as opposed to past more establishment Republicans. The media loved McCain and Flake’s willingness to battle Trump. The same media derides Trump supporters such as Lesko.
That is the dynamic headed into next year’s elections with Trump at the top ticket and the U.S. Senate race between Republican Martha McSally and Democrat Mark Kelly. The Trump dynamic could also impact local elections for mayors, city council as well as state races.
The pro-Trump GOP could very well energize Democrats and key constituencies such as Latinos, younger voters and women. That could tip the scales against Trump and Republicans and help progressives up and down the ticket, including at the local and state level.
Conventional wisdom is that a coalition of progressives and moderates (including ‘never Trump’ Republicans) helped Kyrsten Sinema with her narrow win over Martha McSally in their 2018 U.S. Senate race.
Of course, we heard all this from the media and political pundits in 2016 when women, Hispanics and millennials were supposed to help Hillary Clinton beat Trump.
That didn’t happen with Trump’s coalition of older voters and the white working class and lower middle class helping him carry key battlegrounds over the flawed Clinton.
Like it or not the GOP is the party of Trump and surrogates such as the West Valley’s Lesko and the East Valley’s Biggs. That will be the hill both sides fight on in 2020 and the turnout dynamic will drive the results in races up and down the ballot.