The top elected Republican in the country, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, is abandoning the competitive Arizona Senate race — and potentially a Senate majority — to maintain a conference he can control in the upper chamber.
On Tuesday, Axios reported that McConnell’s super PAC, the Senate Leadership Fund (SLF), is pulling another $9.6 million in television ads from the Arizona contest where Republican Senate candidate Blake Masters remains locked in a tight effort to unseat Democrat incumbent Mark Kelly.
“The cancellations mean that the GOP’s leading super PAC won’t be spending any money in Arizona, one of the most closely watched Senate races in the country,” Axios reported, adding that McConnell’s allies are “confident other outside conservative groups will make up much of the difference.”
The $7.5 million tally from outside groups compiled by Axios, however, is far from making up “much of the difference” where Masters is outspent by Kelly upwards of 9 to 1, according to campaign finance data from OpenSecrets. And hosting a fundraiser for Masters, as McConnell has planned in lieu of direct financing, is mere lip service to claim the Republican Senate leader still supports the party’s Arizona nominee.
The reality is that McConnell would rather run a Senate minority that’s beholden to the octogenarian lawmaker than a majority with solid Republicans who refuse to kiss the ring. The decision to pull nearly $10 million from the Arizona race comes less than a month after McConnell’s super PAC canceled another $8 million in ads planned for Masters. During the Republican Senate primary, Masters said he would not back McConnell for another term in GOP leadership. Alaska Republican Senate candidate Kelly Tshibaka, whose contest is tied against incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski has also pledged to vote for someone else to lead the Senate conference.
After McConnell began to pull support from the Arizona race, an independent super PAC affiliated with Heritage Action for America stepped up to inject $5 million into the contest where Masters is within striking distance of Kelly. According to the RealClearPolitics latest aggregate of polls — which are often biased to shape rather than reflect public opinion — Masters is down by just over 3 points, less than two months before November. McConnell, however, appears content to let Masters slip.