You’d figure that with two primary opponents from the mad fringe of the Republican Party, Congresswoman Martha McSally might want to exploit her reputation for being something of a moderate. She’s a member of the Republican Main Street Partnership, the political home for moderately conservative officeholders. And while she cannot match the senator she wants to succeed, Jeff Flake, in independence from the Trump takeover of the GOP, she has maintained some distance from the president until recently, as Politico noted:
McSally never endorsed Trump in 2016, and she called his comments about sexual assault ‘disgusting’ and ‘unacceptable.’ McSally was also caught on tape this summer telling donors that Trump’s behavior and Twitter habit made her life more difficult.”
But in a sign of how thoroughly Trump now dominates her party, McSally has been snuggling up to the 45th president in preparation for her Senate run.
Rep. Martha McSally wants to make one thing clear before she launches an Arizona Senate campaign: She’s a big fan of President Donald Trump. Over the past month, McSally has sent out photos of herself with the president and with first daughter Ivanka Trump…. And McSally has appeared on Fox News to sing the president’s praises.”
And her video announcing her candidacy, released today, rebrands the GOP Establishment favorite as a hard-ass conservative who hates liberals, the Establishment, political correctness, and Sharia law, while all but claiming she is Trump’s own candidate in the race:
One interesting feature of this ad is how McSally recasts her first moment of real fame during her military career, when she sued the Pentagon to strike down its policy of making off-duty servicewomen posted to Saudi Arabia wear the abaya, the long robe insisted upon by Saudi religious authorities. At the time McSally appeared to be making a feminist statement about equal treatment of American women overseas. But now she says she was “standing up to Sharia law,” a cause beloved of Muslim-hating Christian conservatives.
There’s a similar twist the ad applies to McSally’s status as the first woman to fly Air Force combat missions. It seems the main significance she now ascribes to that accomplishment is as a testament to her toughness — you know, the kind of toughness her new friend the president of the United States displays in taking on “PC politicians and their BS excuses.” McSally also cleverly adapts the ancient conservative injunction to RINOs to “grow a pair” by saying the GOP should “grow a pair of ovaries,” presumably like hers. And she concludes with a declaration that “after taking on terrorists in combat, I’m not afraid of the liberals in the Senate.”
This is about as formulaic a right-wing message as one could devise, and it’s clearly designed to insulate McSally against accusations of ideological heresy or of insufficient subservience to the GOP’s new warrior-king. It’s even possible she is determined to out-crazy Arpaio and Ward, which would be quite the trick. But it’s very definitely a sign of the times, and of the futility within today’s Republican Party of Flake’s efforts to defend traditional conservatism against Trump.