G.O.P. women in Arizona could decide an unexpected 2020 battle

Led by a firebrand loyalist, the state party has lurched to the right under President Trump. That has turned off some Republicans, and Arizona suddenly appears in play for Democrats

Kelli Ward, the chairwoman of the Arizona Republican Party/,Zee Peralta

By Elaina Plott | The New York Times

Cindy McCain, the widow of the Republican senator John McCain, appeared last week in a video at the Democratic National Convention detailing her husband’s “unlikely friendship” with Joseph R. Biden Jr. She praised the Democratic nominee for his willingness to reach across the aisle, calling it “a style of legislating and leadership that you don’t find much anymore.”

Before the clip aired, Kelli Ward, the chairwoman of the Arizona Republican Party, who in 2016 lost a bitter Senate primary challenge to Mr. McCain, filmed her own video to share her thoughts on Mrs. McCain’s appearance.

“Well, I just say: Not a Republican,” Ms. Ward asserted as her husband, wearing a red “Make America Great Again” hat, nodded alongside her.

Those dueling images — the widow of Arizona’s most popular Republican since Barry Goldwater lauding the Democratic presidential nominee’s character, and the state party’s current leader denouncing her in response as a “pretend Republican” who wants to “cause the destruction of this great nation” — succinctly reflected the political identity crisis currently unfolding in Arizona.


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August 2020