If Democrats lose Arizona's U.S. Senate race, they've got a huge Kyrsten Sinema problem

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema leads a council of water experts meeting in her office in Phoenix on Oct. 17, 2022. They were discussing how to spend federal drought relief funds available for keeping Colorado River water in Lake Mead.
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema leads a council of water experts meeting in her office in Phoenix on Oct. 17, 2022. They were discussing how to spend federal drought relief funds available for keeping Colorado River water in Lake Mead.

No one knows who will win the U.S. Senate race in Arizona.

The latest Fox News poll conducted Oct. 26-30 has Mark Kelly up by 2 points and within the margin of error. A toss-up.

Republican Blake Masters has closed a large gap in the past month. A similar poll taken in October showed him down 6 points to Kelly.

If the unexpected happens and the Republican wins this race, it will set up a fascinating dynamic in the post-election:

What to do about Kyrsten Sinema.

If Kelly loses, would Democrats risk another seat?

This is admittedly getting way ahead of things. Kelly, the Democrat, is far outraising Masters to the tune of $75.5 million to $9.9 million as of Sept. 30.

Kelly has been flooding the airwaves and the internet with clever ads in which he plays a working-class guy in a red ballcap festooned not with “Make America Great Again” but the next closest thing, an American flag.

In the background is a big rig splashed with Old Glory.

In the campaign: Can Obama's visit deliver independents to Mark Kelly?

If Kelly playing a Republican in his ads does not win over enough cross-over Republicans or independents, Arizona Democrats will have a serious dilemma.

Can they still afford to hate Kyrsten Sinema?

Because if the incumbent Kelly goes down, once an improbable outcome, it likely means a red tsunami struck America and the state of Arizona, and more Republicans will be taking their seats and control in Congress and at the Arizona Capitol.

It will mean that Kyrsten Sinema, better than her Democratic cohorts, read the horizon and understood what was coming.

It will demonstrate with stunning clarity that Sinema was farsighted holding fast to the legislative filibuster now that Democrats have become the minority in the U.S. Senate.

And if Democrats continue their hate-fest against Arizona’s senior senator, it could mean they risk losing two U.S. Senate seats in Arizona in two years – as quickly as they gained them.

The party has no love left for Kyrsten Sinema

Will Arizona Democrats who censured Sinema in January for “her failure to do whatever it takes to ensure the health of our democracy” be willing to bury the hatchet to ensure they hold on to their remaining U.S. Senate seat?

That’s hard to imagine.

One poll has shown that 54% of likely Arizona Democratic primary voters have a “very unfavorable” view of Sinema.

Left-wing vitriol aimed at Sinema is a gusher on the internet. She is probably the most detested politician in the country today.

Would Democrats risk running a more liberal candidate such as U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego in the 2024 Senate primary to knock her out? Would they risk that knowing that the country and state had swung right in the 2020 election?

These are fascinating questions to ponder.

But my guess is we know the answer. The marriage is over. Democrats have decided their differences with Sinema are unreconcilable.

Arizona Democrats reflect the temper of Democrats nationally, and they’re in no mood to compromise.

Will they move left and lose or go with a winner?

With the slimmest of governing majorities, U.S. congressional and Senate Democrats tried to push an industrial-strength progressive agenda with huge spending on the rest of the country. That would have worked had they gotten Sinema and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., to eliminate the legislative filibuster.

But Sinema and Manchin resisted – to their political damnation.

If Kelly goes down, Arizona Democrats are more likely to self-remove themselves from an Arizona Senate seat than go with a sure winner in Sinema.

It takes a blue dog Democrat to win a Senate seat in Arizona, but Arizona Democrats may not be able to tolerate a blue dog long enough to hold it.

Kelly is not a blue dog.

He has shown some independence when he criticized the White House reversal on Title 42, the public health order that kept some controls on immigration. He showed it again when he opposed a White House pick for wage administrator for the Labor Department.

But he also hid in the shadows for two years as Sinema fought filibuster battles, and he later supported its specific removal to pass voting rights legislation.

All of this makes the present-day race more intriguing.

Which brings us back to Masters and politics today

Mark Kelly is up against Blake Masters, who strikes me as the biggest bull----er in Arizona politics. I’ve just never believed that Mr. smooth-talking Stanford grad and Big Tech executive is the Trump Republican he plays on TV.

He’s not that stupid.

I'm guessing that in his private moments, Masters understands the toxic downside to Donald Trump. Just a hunch.

His general election conversion to more centrist views further persuades me. Fanatics don’t compromise.

Which makes for quite a spectacle in the 2022 race for U.S. Senate in Arizona.

You have two candidates, a Democrat and a Republican, both playing MAGA guys on TV to win over Arizona voters.

There’s a word for Arizona politics today.

Not “left.”

Not “right.”

Just “whacked.”

Phil Boas is an editorial columnist with The Arizona Republic. Email him at phil.boas@arizonarepublic.com.

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: If Mark Kelly loses, Democrats have a huge Sinema problem