“I am proud to fight for Arizonans, for example to lower their taxes,” said McSally. “I take pride in fighting for Arizona every day,” she later added.
The answer was easier for Kelly, who described the general conduct and actions of the President in office as “unacceptable”.
McSally’s response underscored her dangerous position just four weeks before election day as she tries to attract Trump supporters and independents in a state that appears to have turned on the president.
The debate touched on, among other things, the U.S. response to the coronavirus pandemic, healthcare, filibuster, and the Senate Republican efforts to uphold a Supreme Court justice this month. But as the country becomes increasingly polarized and partisan, Trump̵
The Arizona race is one of the most competitive in the country and is critical to future control of the Chamber. Democrats will almost certainly have to defeat McSally to retake the Senate, and she tried to tie Kelly to liberal leaders. She said they would get rid of the filibuster and “create the most radical agenda we’ve ever seen”. Kelly said he has not yet decided his position on the filibuster.
“My opponent claims he is not a politician or a Democrat at all, but that is a fake,” said McSally. “The truth is, he’s bought and paid for by Chuck Schumer, whose road to power is through Arizona.”
McSally has a compelling biography. In an advertising campaign, she discovers she lost her father when she was 12 and was sexually assaulted when she was 17, before becoming the first female Air Force pilot to fly in combat. “If you want to be conspicuous, you’ve got a man,” says McSally in uniform after jumping into a cockpit. “But if you want a fighter, I’m your girl.”
But even Republicans recognize that Kelly is one of the Democratic Party’s strongest recruits in 2020. In July, David McIntosh, president of the Club for Growth, a fiscal conservative group, told CNN that the Democrat was a “rock star candidate.” The Navy captain and NASA astronaut is the husband of former Arizona Representative Gabby Giffords, who was shot in the head and nearly killed in 2011 and is now a leader in the anti-gun violence movement.
Kelly has led the most polls this year, beating McSally in every fiscal quarter of the race. According to Kantar’s Campaign Media Analysis Group, liberal groups have spent or reserved an estimated $ 88 million on advertising, compared to an estimated $ 62 million for conservative groups.
“Mark Kelly has had a steady lead in Arizona almost since the day he announced,” JB Poersch, president of the Senate Majority PAC, the top Super-PAC for Senate Senate races, told CNN. “There wasn’t much looking back.”
The race has turned to health care, especially during the coronavirus pandemic. McSally said Tuesday that Kelly’s support for a public health option was “the first step towards government takeover of health care”. Kelly has denied these attacks, saying in an ad that he “will never vote to remove private health insurance”.
On Tuesday, Kelly repeatedly went after McSally’s vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which introduced insurance coverage for those with pre-existing conditions, reminding viewers that the late GOP Arizona Senator John McCain was heard during the Republican efforts to get around the protection of the Health Act had voted repeal it. Kelly accused Republicans of rushing to validate Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett so she could get to the bank in time to decide on an upcoming case about the ACA’s constitutionality. Kelly said McSally “paved the way” for the lawsuit, which could undermine insurance coverage for millions of Arizonans.
McSally replied that she supported insurance for those with pre-existing conditions, accusing Kelly of trying to delay the Barrett vote so that the Democrats could endorse a “liberal, activist” judiciary.
The debate, however, depended on the actions of the Trump administration.
When asked about the response to the pandemic, Kelly said, “200,000 dead Americans are evidence that … Washington, this administration and Senator McSally haven’t done a great job.” He added that hundreds of thousands of Arizonans have lost their jobs “through no fault of their own” and the country needed more financial support from Congress.
McSally pointed out that the government and Congress have agreements on laws worth trillions of dollars to protect small businesses and mandated Trump to limit travel from China early on. McSally repeatedly suggested that Kelly was obliged to China because of his participation in US-China forums, and Kelly defended himself by citing his military record.
Steven Slugocki, chairman of the Maricopa County Democratic Party, said the electorate was “very diverse” and “rapidly growing”, with color communities, younger people and people from outside the state.
“The Republican Party has lost its base here,” said Slugocki.
Even some Republicans fear McSally will lose the seat, and some don’t think they’re conservative enough.
McIntosh told CNN that McSally is a “weak” candidate who “doesn’t thrill Republicans” and mentioned that she lost to Sinema in 2018 before being appointed to McCain’s seat in 2019.
“Let’s just say she didn’t make it the last time she had a weaker opponent,” said McIntosh. “I’m not too optimistic this time.”