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Arizona GOP braces for volatile Lake-Masters matchup

Arizona Republicans are bracing for the possibility of an extraordinarily volatile Senate primary in which Kari Lake and Blake Masters, two Trump-aligned candidates who lost statewide bids last fall, could be among the competitors

Lake says he’s ‘seriously thinking about it’ enter the race, and a senior adviser indicated he could make a decision in the next month or so. a new one Wall Street Journal reportciting people familiar with Masters’ plans, said the failed Senate hopeful will announce another bid in the coming weeks.

Both sparked controversy in their last bids for office, and a win by either would leave some Republicans worried about their chances in November.

“This is obviously going to be the race to watch across the country,” said Arizona-based Republican strategist Lorna Romero Ferguson. “I think this race is really going to set the tone for, ‘OK, what’s the way forward for Arizona?’

The Liberals want Democrat-turned-independent senator Kyrsten Sinema out of her seat as the party hopes to hold on to its slim majority. The incumbent has not said whether she will run for re-election as an independent. Meanwhile, Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) is running for his party’s nomination, raising the possibility of a three-way contest.

Lake and Mestres were each endorsed of former President Trump in their races last year, and while the party had hoped the pair would be part of a “red wave” of Republican victories in the midterms, both candidates lost their sought-after seats Arizona.

Lake, a former news anchor, he narrowly lost his bid for governor to Katie Hobbs (D). After promoting Trump’s claims of voter fraud in the 2020 race throughout the campaign, she he refused to yield in Hobbs and has continued to allege fraud in the 2022 match.

Masters, a former executive at conservative megadonor Peter Thiel’s Thiel Capital, he lost his Senate bid last year to Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly.

Lake and Masters appeared last year’s campaign togetherbut if both make it to the race for Sinema’s post, they will have to differentiate themselves and fight for votes in the primaries, which could make the eventual winner’s run in the general election considerably weakened.

“Obviously, it’s not going to be kumbaya when they’re competing. And I think you’re going to see Kari Lake after that [Masters] hard, because obviously he’s going to be a threat,” Ferguson said.

While it’s too early to predict how the race might play out with several potential front-runners still undecided, strategists believe Lake has the edge to secure the GOP nomination if he runs, leaving Masters with the onus to field the your case if it enters.

“Which Kari Lake voter is it worth convincing to vote for him? Lake and Blake were a team last year, but in their events, Kari Lake was clearly the draw,” said Barrett Marson, a GOP strategist with in Arizona. “I’m not sure how Blake differs from Kari Lake in any significant way.”

Brian Seitchik, another Arizona-based GOP strategist, said Masters will have to “aggressively” draw voters away from Lake if they are in the running.

Part of the difficulty, Marson argued, is that both candidates are “already so well defined.” He raised the possibility that Masters will run on the assumption that Lake will not ultimately launch an offer.

But Ferguson suggested that being well-defined could end up being a detriment to Lake, “because this time it’s different, because it’s not new.” Lake’s continued claims of voter fraud may have tired some voters and alienated some in the donor class, he said.

“Now you’re going to have, potentially, two candidates pre-approved by Trump going into this cycle, but two candidates who took very different approaches after the election,” Ferguson said, referring to the fraud claims. Masters expressed concern about the 2020 election, however he conceded his career to Kelly.

Ferguson warned that Masters should not “fall victim to wanting to out-Trump Kari Lake” but said he sees a “potential path to victory” for him if he broadens his appeal, rather than bowing out towards the right

Given Arizona’s unique electoral landscape, where the largest group of voters in the state is not affiliated with either major party, primary candidates will likely need middle-of-the-road votes to win.

Thiel gave millions in the Master’s mid-term campaign, however Reuters reported in April that the megadonor planned to take a step back from supporting political candidates in 2024. Strategists predict that Lake, who has been outspoken in his support for the former president, is the more likely of the two to get a potential endorsement from trump

Seitchik said Lamb, who is already in the running, becomes “an asterisk in this race” if both Lake and Masters enter.

“It’s just going to suck more oxygen into his campaign. If he decides to stay in the race, I’m not quite sure where his support is going to come from,” Seitchik said of Lamb.

Marson, however, argued that the sheriff has “a much better path” to victory because he boasts a strong message on immigration and law enforcement that could appeal to Arizona Republicans, and because “no has accepted the electoral denial”.

A Lake-Masters-Lamb primary could be a headache for the party. Although many thought Lake would be the favorite, some Republicans worry the controversial candidate aligned with Trump could cost them the Senate in the general election.

That potential outcome is not lost on Democrats, who are cheering the possibility of a brutal Republican primary.

“Arizona’s Senate race is quickly turning into the GOP’s worst nightmare,” Arizona Democratic Party communications adviser Olivia Taylor-Puckett said in a statement.

But no matter who enters the GOP race, the party’s nominee will be heading into a critical general election that could include both the independent incumbent and a Democratic candidate for a three-way matchup.

“You can’t count on Sinema,” Ferguson said. “That kind of unknown about having a legitimate third-party candidate running for state office for the United States Senate, at least in Arizona, but I’m pretty sure most states are completely unheard of.”

The non-partisan Electoral Disability Cook Political Report rate the Sinema seat as one of three “pull up” states that does not tilt to either side.

A survey by Noble Predictive Insights taken in July found Gallego leading Sinema and Lake in a hypothetical three-way contest: 34 percent for the Democrat, 26 percent for the independent and 25 percent for the Republican.

In a Gallego-Sinema-Masters showdown, the Democrat led with 32 percent, followed by the independent with 28 percent and the Republican with 24 percent.

With Lamb as the GOP candidate, Gallego won 33 percent, and Sinema and Lamb were statistically tied at 24 and 25 percent.

Seitchik noted that Democrats will defend seats in Ohio, Montana and West Virginia in 2024, but said states like Arizona will also be key to defending their slim majorities, and will be highly sought after by Republicans looking to take control.

“The United States Senate is up for grabs,” Seitchik said, adding that the potential three-way race will be “remarkably unpredictable.”

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