Kelli Ward's DC charm offensive

Arizona US Senate hopeful Kelli Ward is here to show conservatives that she's not crazy -- and to convince them that ...

Posted: Feb 22, 2018 9:16 AM
Updated: Feb 22, 2018 9:16 AM

Arizona US Senate hopeful Kelli Ward is here to show conservatives that she's not crazy -- and to convince them that it's still worth spending money in GOP primaries.

Ward is in the middle of a week-long blitz in Washington that includes meetings with major donors and conservative outside groups, interviews and a trip to the annual Conservative Political Action Conference.

She's trying to galvanize the right against Rep. Martha McSally, one of her primary foes in the race to replace retiring Republican Sen. Jeff Flake -- even with Steve Bannon excommunicated and President Donald Trump seemingly less interested in a brawl with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that plays out through proxies in 2018 primaries.

The 10 Senate seats most likely to flip in 2018: February edition

Ward's argument: Democrats in Arizona are energized behind Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, but the GOP base might stay home rather than vote for McSally.

"What we as a party need to do is give Republicans a reason to go to the polls in November, because the Democrats certainly have some momentum and drive to get their people to the polls," Ward said in an interview with CNN. "What's not going to get Republicans to the polls is offering them the same kind of politician as John McCain and Jeff Flake in Arizona."

Ward has long fought for relevance in Trump's world. At a late 2017 Trump rally in Phoenix, he huddled with several allies backstage about finding a Flake primary challenger -- but Ward wasn't part of the conversation, got no mention from the stage and attended as part of the general crowd.

Fresh off an unsuccessful primary against McCain, Ward, the conservative former state senator launched her 2018 Senate campaign in October 2016 -- before Trump had even won the presidency. She appeared to help chase incumbent Flake into retirement. And shortly after Bannon departed the White House, she looked like a star member of his class of insurgents determined to unseat Republican senators in this year's primaries.

Now, though, Bannon is out of Trump's inner circle, and the White House is aligning itself much more closely with McConnell's political priorities.

And McConnell world has been clear: It's backing McSally.

Seeking to keep Republicans from coalescing around McSally's candidacy, Ward's campaign and outside conservative groups have cast McSally as a never-Trumper, highlighting her refusal to endorse Trump during the 2016 campaign.

In recent weeks, McSally has refused to say whether she voted for Trump. "Not your business," she told a Los Angeles Times reporter.

The three-way late-August primary also features former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, an anti-immigration hard-liner who threatens to siphon votes away from Ward.

Meetings in DC

Now Ward is in Washington for a week of meetings designed to demonstrate she's worth a heavy financial investment in a race where she's being pinched from both sides.

Her schedule included meetings with several conservative groups -- including Freedom Partners, a group related to the Koch brothers' donor network, the Heritage Foundation and the Club for Growth. She will also meet GOP megadonors, including Chicago-area businessman Dick Uihlein and Bill Doddridge, the CEO of the Jewelry Exchange, who launched a pro-Trump super PAC.

Ward is highlighting support from Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican who campaigned for her in Arizona last week and labeled McSally "Martha McSpender." Ward is also taking a hard line on immigration, accusing McSally of voting for "amnesty" for undocumented immigrants "at least nine times."

Chemtrails

Support for Ward's campaign from outside the state could be crucial: She has already faced ads launched by the McConnell-aligned super PAC Senate Leadership Fund portraying her as "Chemtrail Kelli."

It's a reference to a 2014 town hall Ward hosted where constituents raised concerns about "chemtrails" -- emissions left by airplanes flying overhead. Two state officials Ward had invited shot down the conspiracy theory at the meeting. But the ad said she "has got her head in the clouds with crazy ideas."

"I definitely don't believe that. That's ridiculous," Ward told CNN of the characterization of her as a believer in a "chemtrail" conspiracy.

"During the (2014) meeting, some of the people there talked about chemtrails -- and that's it. I mean really, that's the end of the story," she said. "However, the political story is, when you don't have anything to attack someone with, you bring up ridiculous things like chemtrails."

"It's a shame that people on our side of the aisle are trying to create a persona that doesn't exist," she said. "They're so focused on maintaining the status quo that they alienate a huge part of the Republican electorate, as well as many in the liberty movement, as well as independents, and even some conservative Democrats are turned off by that."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 115088

Reported Deaths: 3255
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds7973177
DeSoto703979
Harrison522384
Jackson457884
Rankin394086
Madison383194
Lee357380
Forrest304678
Jones292484
Washington258399
Lafayette250443
Lauderdale2478135
Lamar225538
Oktibbeha202454
Bolivar201677
Neshoba1849111
Lowndes179962
Panola170040
Leflore167187
Sunflower162349
Warren154855
Monroe150673
Pontotoc147220
Marshall143129
Lincoln140157
Pike138456
Copiah137536
Scott125429
Coahoma124937
Grenada122638
Yazoo122234
Simpson121549
Union118825
Tate116839
Leake115041
Holmes114760
Itawamba113925
Pearl River113660
Adams108544
Prentiss106120
Wayne101722
Alcorn100112
George99218
Covington97527
Marion95042
Tippah90322
Newton86627
Chickasaw85526
Tallahatchie84526
Winston84121
Hancock84028
Tishomingo81241
Attala79426
Clarke75851
Clay69321
Jasper68717
Walthall63927
Calhoun62612
Noxubee59817
Smith59416
Montgomery54923
Yalobusha54514
Claiborne53716
Tunica53517
Lawrence51814
Perry49423
Carroll49312
Greene47818
Stone47514
Humphreys43816
Amite42513
Quitman4206
Jefferson Davis41011
Webster37613
Benton3416
Wilkinson33820
Kemper32615
Sharkey28514
Jefferson27610
Franklin2423
Choctaw2086
Issaquena1074
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 155915

Reported Deaths: 2674
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson23129377
Mobile16849315
Tuscaloosa10296140
Montgomery10197197
Madison928096
Shelby733863
Baldwin663769
Lee653465
Calhoun456761
Marshall438150
Etowah426551
Houston414834
Morgan412035
DeKalb338829
Elmore320053
St. Clair292542
Limestone284230
Walker277292
Talladega265335
Cullman244024
Lauderdale226242
Jackson214915
Franklin205231
Autauga204831
Colbert200532
Russell19443
Blount192525
Chilton186932
Dallas186527
Coffee176311
Dale175151
Covington174029
Escambia172530
Chambers135044
Clarke134317
Pike133513
Tallapoosa131787
Marion107629
Barbour10319
Marengo100822
Butler100740
Winston92213
Geneva9007
Lawrence85032
Pickens84718
Bibb82814
Randolph82316
Hale76730
Washington74412
Clay74112
Cherokee73314
Lowndes70928
Henry7086
Bullock64817
Monroe64610
Crenshaw60630
Perry5896
Fayette57413
Wilcox56712
Conecuh56113
Cleburne5568
Macon53420
Lamar4905
Sumter47221
Choctaw39012
Greene34216
Coosa2033
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Overcast
56° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 56°
Columbus
Overcast
55° wxIcon
Hi: 70° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 55°
Oxford
Overcast
50° wxIcon
Hi: 60° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: 50°
Starkville
Overcast
52° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 52°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather