“I’m proud that I’m fighting for Arizonans on things like cutting your taxes,” McSally said. “I’m proud to be fighting for Arizona every single day,” she later added.
The response was simpler for Kelly, who called the President’s overall behavior and actions in office “not acceptable.”
McSally’s response underscored her perilous position just four weeks before Election Day, as she tries to woo Trump supporters and independents in a state that appears to have turned on the President.
The debate touched on the US response to the coronavirus pandemic, health care, the filibuster and the Senate Republican effort to confirm a Supreme Court justice this month, among other issues. But as the country becomes increasingly polarized and partisan, Trump’s standing in Arizona could define the Senate race and sink McSally.
The Arizona race is one of the most competitive in the country and crucial to the future control of the chamber. Democrats need to almost certainly defeat McSally to take back the Senate, and she tried to tie Kelly to liberal leaders, saying they would abolish the filibuster and install “the most radical agenda that we’ve seen.” Kelly said he has not yet decided his position on the filibuster.
“My opponent is claiming that he’s not a politician, or not even a Democrat, but that’s counterfeit,” said McSally. “The truth is that he is bought and paid for by Chuck Schumer, whose path to power goes through Arizona.”
McSally has a compelling biography. In a campaign ad, she notes that she lost her dad at 12 years old, and was sexually abused at 17, before becoming the first woman pilot in the Air Force to fly in combat. “If you want flashy, you’ve got a guy,” says McSally in uniform, after jumping into a cockpit. “But if you want a fighter, I’m your girl.”
But even Republicans acknowledge that Kelly is one of the Democratic Party’s strongest recruits of 2020. In July, David McIntosh, the president of the Club for Growth, a fiscally conservative group, told CNN that the Democrat is a “rock star candidate.” The Navy captain and NASA astronaut is the husband of former Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords, who was shot in the head and nearly killed in 2011 and is now a leader in the movement against gun violence.
Kelly has led most polls this year, and outraised McSally every financial quarter of the race. Liberal groups have spent or reserved an estimated $88 million to advertise in it, compared to an estimated $62 million for conservative groups, according to Kantar’s Campaign Media Analysis Group.
“Mark Kelly has had a consistent lead in Arizona almost since the day he announced,” J.B. Poersch, the president of the Senate Majority PAC, the top Super PAC for Democrats in Senate races, told CNN. “There hasn’t been much looking back.”
The race has pivoted over health care, especially during the coronavirus pandemic. McSally said on Tuesday that Kelly’s support of a public health care option was “the first step to the government takeover of health care.” Kelly has rejected those attacks, saying in one ad that he “will never vote to eliminate private health insurance.”
On Tuesday, Kelly repeatedly went after McSally’s votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act,…
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