Triple-digit temperatures reinforce the reality of a four-letter word widely employed in Arizona at this time of year.
That warm feeling outside doesn’t necessarily prompt a good feeling inside, as both desert dwellers and politicians can attest. In fact, candidates for public office admit privately that it always seems hotter in even-numbered years.
That’s because they know voters will render a verdict and select party nominees in the primaries that await in August.
And no candidate feels the heat more than Arizona’s junior senator.
No, Mark Kelly isn’t in danger of losing the Democrat nomination to keep his job, but he is in danger of losing that job altogether in the November general election. One of his “references” is proving problematic.
That would be the former senator who now finds himself at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.
Joe Biden flew over Arizona in Air Force One recently, en route to California and a sit-down interview with ex-ASU student-and-current-Democrat-activist-also-known-as-a -talk-show-host Jimmy Kimmel.
Imagine Mark Kelly’s reaction when he heard Ol’ Joe say to the formerly funny-now-bitterly-partisan-late-night-emcee: “48 out of 50 senators vote with me 95% of the time!”
The astronaut-turned-senator must have recalled his space shuttle simulators warning of imminent disaster — alarms sounding, malfunction lights flashing, and a brightly lit big red button: ABORT.
For Kelly, the leader of his party was simply confirming what the National Republican Senatorial Committee has been pointing out in TV ads. As you might expect, the NRSC is focusing exclusively on Kelly’s votes, discovering that Mark clings to Joe as closely as a shadow, supporting the Biden agenda fully 97% of the time.
Forgive the energetic contingent of GOP candidates seeking to replace Mark Kelly if they all paraphrase a notable quote from NASA History: “Arizona, we have a problem!”
And to Kelly, who is burning through a considerable chunk of campaign cash with ads of his own, claiming that he’s a “practical problem solver,” the basic challenge is clear. He is seeking a solution for his own survivability… politically speaking.
What’s a worried junior senator to do?
Previous columns have noted the need for Kelly to employ his astronaut training and execute a “course correction” to prevent an electoral crash and burn.
Just as earthbound explorers look to the North Star for navigational assistance, one of Kelly’s colleagues from the Northeast provides an instructive yet cautionary example.
When Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) formally filed for re-election, she employed an imaginary tool — a rhetorical “file,” trying to metaphorically weaken the bars of the “Joe Biden Holding Cell” from which she, Mark Kelly and other embattled Democrats must escape.
New Hampshire’s junior senator didn’t mention Biden by name, but she made clear what she thinks will separate her from the Biden Bunch.
“What I’ve been pushing for is, among other things, suspending the gas tax. That helps put some more money in people’s pockets. I’m pushing the administration to support that. They haven’t yet, and that’s frustrating,” Hassan said.
But voters are even more frustrated and will likely view these “eleventh hour departures” from the Biden Agenda with considerable skepticism.
We’ve been told that Mark Kelly is a “man of action.” Can he morph into a “man of acting”? Kelly may find himself following the apocryphal guidance of the wizened old talent agent who advised a young client of the key to success. “Sincerity, kid… that’s the secret! Once you learn to fake that, you got it made!”
There’s no doubting the fact that Mark Kelly sincerely wants to remain in the Senate, but unless he can convince Arizona voters of his independence from Joe Biden, he will face the unpleasantness of another four-letter word on Nov. 9.