Treason? The Arizona Senate race is heating up

How well does a blue wave work in a desert? That’s the question Arizona voters will be facing in the race to claim Jeff Flake’s seat next month. Republican Martha McSally and Democrat Kyrsten Sinema had their only debate last night and tight nature of the race was reflected in the way both candidates were taking shots at each other. Near the end, it was McSally who appeared to pull out the big guns, suggesting that Sinema was acting in a treasonous fashion when she previously joined in war protests and said during a radio interview that she “didn’t care” if Americans went out and joined the Taliban to fight against American troops in Afghanistan. (Politico)

Republican Martha McSally accused Democrat Kyrsten Sinema of “treason” Monday night, latching onto recent reports about Sinema’s comments as an anti-war activist at the end of a contentious, fiery Arizona Senate debate.

Near the end of the hour-long debate, McSally attacked Sinema over the comments from a radio show in 2003, reported earlier this week by CNN. The host made a hypothetical comment about joining the Taliban, to which Sinema responded: “I don’t care if you want to do that, go ahead.”

McSally demanded an apology, accusing her fellow congresswoman of saying “it’s okay to commit treason.” Sinema didn’t respond to the attack or explain her past comments, instead accusing McSally of running a negative campaign by using “ridiculous attacks, and trying to smear my campaign.”

Here’s the video of that particular exchange from the Associated Press.

You have to give Sinema some credit for good political sense, or perhaps just good debate coaching. She refused to engage on the subject, ignoring the accusation entirely and falling back on a generic accusation of “ridiculous attacks and smears” against her campaign. It was really her only option at that point. The recording of the radio interview is out there making the rounds and there’s no denying that she said it. And saying that you “don’t care” if Americans go sign up to fight with the Taliban isn’t a winning message even in the most liberal strongholds of the country. If she had tried to explain the remark away she would simply have opened herself up to a rebuttal from McSally, allowing her to keep up the pressure.

This one is going to come down to the wire. There definitely seems to be some Kavanaugh momentum going McSally’s way at the moment, but we don’t know if it will last all the way to the election. The latest polling average for the race has the Republican up, but only barely. The most recent ABC poll has McSally leading by six, but during the same time period , the CBS/YouGov survey has Sinema ahead by 3. Both of these are better news for McSally than her standing late in the summer when Sinema was leading in nearly every survey, though not by a wide margin.

We need to hope that this one comes down to momentum in the end. At the moment it seems to be going McSally’s way. Also, it’s been quite a while since Arizona has sent a Democrat to the Senate, so if the GOP’s usual voter base comes home in time for the midterms, that will be one less seat to worry about in terms of keeping the majority.