Trump advisers warn McSally is in trouble

McConnell appeared to stand by the senator, noting that it’s only May and the election is still a ways off, people familiar with the meeting said.

A White House spokesperson declined to comment, as did a Trump reelection spokesperson.

A McConnell spokesman said, “Leader McConnell is fully supportive of Senator McSally and believes she’s on a path to victory in November.”

Trump’s own standing in the state was also a subject of the conversation.

The discussion comes amid increasing Republican worries about Arizona. An array of recent polls have shown Trump losing to Joe Biden in the state, which Democrats have not won in a presidential election since 1996. Democrats have signaled they intend to make an aggressive play in Arizona.

The Senate race is a particular trouble spot. As Senate Republicans try to protect their majority, McSally has emerged as one of the party’s most vulnerable incumbents. One survey released this week showed McSally trailing Kelly by 13 points.

McSally is also heading into the final six months of the campaign at a substantial fundraising disadvantage. Through the end of March, Kelly had outraised McSally $31 million to $18 million. Kelly, who is the husband of ex-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, is the most well-funded Senate candidate in the country.

The race is center to Democratic hopes of winning control of the Senate. Along with Colorado, Democrats see Arizona as their best opportunity to flip a GOP-held seat.

Republicans have made protecting McSally, a former congresswoman and ex-Air Force fighter pilot, a top priority. The National Republican Senatorial Committee has booked $5.7 million in TV advertising in the state. Defend Arizona, a super PAC aligned with the national party, is expected to spend $9.2 million.

“It’s a fact that Arizona is a battleground state for both the presidential and U.S. Senate campaigns,” said McSally campaign manager Dylan Lefler. “We are confident that the Republican Party is fully invested in keeping Arizona red in November because control of the White House and the Senate depends on it.”

After Trump won Arizona by fewer than 4 percentage points in 2016, Republicans in the state say the president will need to take it seriously this year. They note the state has grown more liberal in recent years, with four statewide offices flipping to Democrats in 2018. That year, McSally lost to Democrat Kyrsten Sinema. She was later appointed to the seat of the late John McCain.

Trump advisers project confidence about the president’s prospects in the battleground state. Advisers noted during Thursday’s meeting that while McSally lost in 2018, Republican Gov. Doug Ducey won reelection.

But other Republicans are concerned. Biden, they say, will be a tougher opponent than Hillary Clinton was in 2016. They also worry that Trump’s troubles in suburban areas could prove costly.

“Trump is his own worst enemy with swing constituencies,” said Chuck Couglin, who served as a top adviser to former Republican Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer. “His best shot with those voters is to make his opponent less attractive than he is. He will have a harder time doing that with Biden. He will try though.”

Arizona is one of two traditionally conservative states Democrats are trying to put in play. They are also planning to compete in Georgia, which Democrats haven’t won in a presidential election since 1992. Trump won the state by 5 percentage points in 2016, though recent surveys have shown a tight race.

Democrats say competing in red states will open up multiple avenues for Biden to reach the 270 electoral vote threshold. The party has been mostly focused on three Rust Belt states — Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania — that Trump won by narrow margins in 2016.

A survey released earlier this month showed Biden leading Arizona by 7 percentage points, though Trump advisers insist his numbers in the state are more favorable.