Post-election review draws troubling conclusions for Donald Trump and his prospects for reelection

A memo reveals that Trump is not popular among Republicans, especially women, in a state crucial to his 2020 hopes

Published November 29, 2018 4:31PM (EST)

Donald Trump and Martha McSally during a rally at the International Air Response facility on October 19, 2018 in Mesa, Arizona. (Getty/Ralph Freso)
Donald Trump and Martha McSally during a rally at the International Air Response facility on October 19, 2018 in Mesa, Arizona. (Getty/Ralph Freso)

An internal memo from the Arizona Republican Party spotlighting Rep. Martha McSally's (R-Ariz.) failed Senate bid draws troubling conclusions for President Donald Trump and his prospects for reelection in 2020.

The memo, which was published by the Washington Post, details McSally's loss to Democratic Senator-elect Kyrsten Sinema in the race to fill the seat vacated by outgoing Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, who decided against seeking reelection. It cites internal polling, ad spending, name recognition and notes that Trump is not popular among Republicans — particularly women – in a state that would likely be important to his 2020 prospects.

"A significant segment of the AZ GOP was hostile to the President," it says. "In internal polling during the primary, President Trump never broke 80% favorability among Republican voters. A certain segment of AZ Republicans was outright hostile to President Trump, and was against the Kavanaugh appointment. This segment of moderate Republicans, especially woman [sic], proved very difficult to bring home to a Republican candidate that supported President Trump and the confirmation of Justice Kavanaugh."

Trump endorsed McSally, who he lauded as "an extraordinary woman," and even traveled to Arizona to boost her campaign.

Before Sinema's win, voters in Arizona had not elected a Democrat to the upper chamber in 30 years. Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in Arizona by 3.5 percentage points — 48.1 percent to Clinton's 44.6 percent. Republicans have captured Arizona's 11 electoral voters in every presidential election cycle since 1952, except when Bill Clinton carried the state in 1996. During the 2018 midterm election cycle, McSally's share of the vote was close to Trump's at 48 percent, but Sinema came out on top with 49.7 percent.

McSally has reportedly been floated as a possible replacement for Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), who was appointed by Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) to replace the late Sen. John McCain on an interim basis. Kyl has indicated that he would not seek re-election, which means that Democrats would potentially have a shot at flipping both seats.

It remains unclear if Kyl will remain in the Senate until 2020, when a special election will be held to fill McCain's unexpired term. If Kyl steps down after the end of the session, Ducey would be required to appoint a new replacement. Earlier this week, the Washington Post reported that prominent Republicans in Arizona "have reservations about appointing McSally," citing her defeat to Sinema.

According to Vox, Trump's 2020 campaign in Arizona is off to an "inauspicious start." The news outlet explains:

After a string of midterm campaign stops where the message centered on fear-mongering about immigrants, Trump suffered a stinging defeat when Republicans lost control of the House. Things haven't improved for him in the weeks since. With the stock market sliding and Trump country layoffs in the news, a Gallup Poll released Monday found that a record-tying 60 percent of Americans disapprove of Trump's performance.

Trump's 2020 campaign in Arizona is off to an inauspicious start. On Tuesday, the Arizona Republic reported that the Trump campaign owes Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport and Mesa taxpayers $13,000 for temporary lighting that was unexpectedly needed during the president’s October rally for McSally.

An airport spokesperson told the paper that the airport hasn't invoiced the campaign but "certainly wouldn't turn down any reimbursement."

By Shira Tarlo

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