I’m half-convinced that Arpaio’s longshot Senate bid is actually an establishment plot to help McSally to victory in the primary, with Trump as a key enabler. “Run, Joe, run!” the president might be whispering to him. “You owe it to me to run!” And Arpaio, deluding himself into believing he can win the general election, may have listened. He really does owe Trump after that pardon.

When I floated that theory yesterday, some Twitter pals responded, “C’mon, gaming the primary for McSally by dividing the right between Arpaio and Kelli Ward is five-dimensional chess. Trump doesn’t think that strategically.” That’s true. But I know a guy with Trump’s ear who does.

Arpaio’s gonna blow Ward up!

The poll, conducted the same day Arpaio announced his Senate run, shows the former sheriff with 29% of the vote, a statistical tie with first place candidate Martha McSally at 31%.

Former state senator Kelli Ward, who has been the front runner in recent polls, drops to 25% in this latest survey.

In the last poll of Arizona, without Arpaio in the race, this same pollster had Ward up eight points on McSally. That’s a swing of 14 points between the two of them, all thanks to Sheriff Joe. He really is going to cannibalize Ward’s populist vote.

There’s just one flaw in my “McConnell/Trump plot” theory. What if Arpaio wins? More from the poll:

In the survey, a Trump endorsement for Arpaio bumps him up to 35% of the vote, while a McSally endorsement from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell brings her to 31%. Ward falls to 13% with a potential endorsement from former Trump strategist Steve Bannon.

Nudging Arpaio into the race to dilute Ward’s vote and make life easier for McSally only makes sense if McSally’s victory seems all but assured in a three-way race — say, if she was polling consistently with 40-45 percent of the vote versus Ward’s 55-60 percent. That’s not the scenario we have. McSally’s pulling around only a third of the electorate; with numbers that low Arpaio could conceivably win the primary outright, a disaster scenario for the GOP given the national mileage Democrats would get from it and the near-certainty that he’d lose the general election in an electoral climate that’ll be inhospitable even to mainstream Republicans. Worse, if Arpaio catches on and builds up a Roy-Moore-sized lead in the three-way race, Ward may start feeling pressure to drop out and endorse him. If that happens, suddenly Arpaio is a strong favorite to win a two-way race with McSally. McConnell and other congressional Republicans will howl at Arizonans to learn their lesson from Alabama, but what do those cucks in D.C. know?

Ben Shapiro’s had enough:

But the populist style has nothing to do with policy stalwartness and decentralization. It has to do with being “anti-establishment,” meaning contrary on an attitudinal level, and “non-elite,” meaning “not qualified.” The populist style elevates people who are actually kooky, because they’re not embraced by the “elites.” In this game, personality disorders become a recommendation: they’re no better than we are, so at least they don’t look down their noses at us!…

Enough is enough. I’m a Tea Partier down to the bone – I want power out of Washington D.C. and the federal government slashed down to minimal size. But I agree with the founders that we need elites – people who are better than we are at the business of politics – in the business of politics. By all means, oppose elitism. But we must stop conflating elitism with being elite. You wouldn’t want a non-elite plumber. You shouldn’t want a non-elite politician.

“Personality disorders become a recommendation.” That’s exactly right. It’d be one thing if populists were measuring candidates’ “non-elite-ness” by virtuous criteria. If GOP voters suddenly started insisting on giving a leg up in primaries to candidates who, say, worked blue-collar careers before running for office, that would be interesting and commendable. If you want a representative government, send some people to Washington who know what it’s like to try to make it in America on a working-class wage. But it’s not class that’s the yardstick of Republican populism, it’s how far you’re willing to stray from basic civic norms. Trump gets onstage at a debate and says the military would obey his illegal orders; Bannon plays footsie with white nationalists; Roy Moore seems ambivalent about whether gays should be punished with death; Arpaio is Arpaio. The chief credential for office to a populist voter nowadays seems to be the candidate’s obvious unfitness for office. If you want to shake up Washington and stick it to the elites, who better to do it than someone who obviously won’t wield power responsibly?

Whether Arizona has a chance of staying red next year or not is on Trump now. If he encourages Arpaio’s candidacy, McSally’s chances of winning the primary may be DOA. If he supports her, Arpaio might quit and Ward might fade. It’s his move. Let’s see if he learned his lesson in Alabama.