President Donald Trump, who has enjoyed bragging of his (imperfect) record of making last-minute endorsements in competitive Republican primaries, has yet to weigh in on the heated three-way race for the GOP bid to replace retiring Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona. In an interview last Friday with right-wing candidate Kelli Ward, Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom” host Sandra Smith portrayed the lack of a Trump endorsement as a major concern for the GOP in “a critical race for your party and for this country.”
Breitbart endorsed Ward in April, and given that she shares Trump’s contempt for Arizona’s current senators, John McCain and Jeff Flake, it may seem surprising that he hasn’t weighed in yet. It may be that Trump isn’t as willing as Breitbart to publicly abandon the notorious Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who Trump pardoned last summer, and who is also on the ballot.
But it may also be that Trump’s advisers are wary about Ward’s reputation as a conspiracy theorist who has called a hearing about rumors that “chemtrails” are altering the weather or people’s blood chemistry and who accused John McCain, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton of arming ISIS. In 2014, Ward was part of a group of state lawmakers who stood with rancher Cliven Bundy in his armed standoff with federal agents over his refusal to pay fees for grazing his cattle on federally owned land. This week she started campaigning with alt-Right figure and Pizzagate promoter Mike Cernovich.
Like Trump, Ward has appeared on conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’s radio show, and she has also joined End Times conspiracy theorist radio host Rick Wiles on his show.
Ward, who spoke at a rally organized by Jones and dirty trickster Roger Stone during the 2016 Republican National Convention, said on her Fox appearance, “It’s clear that there are three candidates out there, but there’s only one choice for the people of Arizona if they want an America First champion, who’s gonna go to Washington to build the wall, to repeal Obamacare, to grow the economy, to cut spending … and that’s Dr. Kelli Ward.”
Pressed by Smith for an explanation of Trump’s lack of endorsement, Ward said she’s heard that Trump likes all three candidates, and that she’s glad the choice will be made by the people of Arizona. “I think it might be our last chance for decades, if ever, to have somebody that’s conservative in the Senate from our state,” she warned.
Ward said she is eager to work with the Freedom Caucus and touted her endorsements from Rep. Paul Gosar and Sen. Rand Paul. “They know we need somebody that is a liberty-loving constitutional conservative Republican in Washington to help President Trump and help the American people advance the agenda to keep this country on track,” she said.
Ward rejected Smith’s characterization of her Republican opponent Martha McSally as the frontrunner, saying, “Every indication, and every internal poll that we have shows that I am the frontrunner and I am going to be the nominee.”
Real Clear Politics’ reported average of polls taken between June 17 and July 25 put McSally ahead of Ward by 8 percentage points, with Arpaio trailing in third place. The primary will take place on August 28.