American elections: Arizona, laboratory of the Trumpist turn

Sent October 10, 2022, 3:00 pmUpdated October 19, 2022 at 6:43 pm

At 9:00 am in a mall cafe south of Phoenix, the music is loud to welcome Kari Lake. “People come to Arizona to escape California. If you want to be “woken up”, go to California! “, Launches the Republican candidate for the post of governor of the state. The former television journalist, who has broken with his profession and now denounces “corrupt media”, has a perfect mastery of the image, from the truck with his image circulating the streets of the megalopolis to his “Ask me anything” tour . him several times a week in front of small assemblies.

A few hours later, at the end of September, it is Blake Masters, an edgy 30-year-old supported by the Californian financier Peter Thiel, who invests the lounges of a luxury hotel in Paradise Valley, a chic suburb of Phoenix. “I feel the red wave [la couleur du parti républicain, NDLR] come up, do you feel it too? The activists, who paid between $ 20 and $ 80 to hear local candidates in the November 8 election, pulled out their patriotic caps and T-shirts in the colors of the American flag for the occasion.

Relay of accusations of electoral theft

Neither Kari Lake nor Blake Masters have political experience, but both have adopted the same strategy to defeat Republican rivals in the August primary: get Donald Trump sponsorship.

To stand out within their camp and win votes from below, they did not hesitate to broadcast allegations of a stolen election in 2020, which tore apart the party and the state since Joe Biden won by a narrow majority (10,000 votes) in Arizona – Kari Blake assures her governor would not certify the election. On Sunday the former president came to support them at a meeting in Mesa, while the media already sees Kari Blake form a possible “ticket” with Donald Trump if he shows up in 2024.

A right-wing strategy that disturbs even within the Republican establishment: the outgoing governor Doug Ducey, reached by the limit of his two terms, struggles to support Kari Lake. And Mitch McConnell, the Senate leader out of disqualification with Donald Trump from the attack on Capitol Hill, is reluctant to fund the Blake Masters campaign.

“Invasion”

Arizona has thus become a laboratory of the Trumpist turn, in a state of 7 million inhabitants in full economic growth and today politically more temperate: the governor is a Republican but the two senators are Democrats.

On immigration, an important issue for this state on the Mexican border, Kari Lake plans to declare the state of “invasion”, on the first day of her mandate, if she wins, “to protect this border” against migrants and the drug.

“We have a Fentanyl crisis [un opioïde puissant, NDLR] because Biden has opened the border to cartels ”, he assures. Drawing an alliance of populists, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis also came to a meeting to support it, proposing to send reservists from Florida to guard the Arizona-Mexico border.

“They find $ 50 billion for Ukraine, but they can’t find $ 10 billion for the wall” on the border, Blake Masters also criticizes. “Three years ago we were doing better. We had a safe border and inflation was 2%. What has happened since then? Biden took over. And Mark Kelly followed him, ”says Blake Masters, thus trying to associate the outgoing senator with the presidential budget.

school debate

The debate on education is also popular. A credit system already offers parents the opportunity to finance public or private school. A policy strongly supported by Kari Lake, who wants “competition”: public schools “will change their program if they want to survive”, launches the candidate, successfully denouncing sex education lessons to her audience.

To seduce the undecided and the moderates, the two Republican candidates have initiated a tactical refocusing.

In front of them, the Democrats have bet on temperance and centrism, dodging frontal debates with their opponents for weeks and limiting their public outings. Former pilot and astronaut, Mark Kelly cultivates his unifying image after winning the chair of late Republican John McCain in late 2020. The challenge of the election “is not to choose between Republican and Democrat, but between reason and chaos,” he also complains. Secretary of State and candidate for governor Katie Hobbs, who also garnered some support Republicans.

A bet that, however, becomes risky. The polls still give Democrat Mark Kelly the edge for the Senate, but the gaps are narrowing and Democrat Katie Hobbs’s edge has crumbled. Because to seduce the undecided and the moderates, the two Republican candidates have initiated a tactical refocusing. In public meetings where questions are checked and the room is rarely given the floor, the inflections of speech are decoded hollowly: Kari Lake as Blake Masters now evades or tempers the subject of abortion, when both have previously held positions extreme.

The Republican Party has also opened in Phoenix, after other cities, a “community center” for Hispanics: one in three residents in the state. “Soft power” with its “make-up and mariachi” evenings, to capture a key electorate less left than expected.

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