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Blake Masters, Trump-endorsed GOP Senate candidate in Arizona, attempts pivot to the center

Less than a month after winning the Arizona GOP Senate primary with the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, Blake Masters is softening his language on controversial issues like abortion, gun control, immigration— and even the 2020 election. 

His campaign website no longer describes him as “100% pro-life” and a section that previously called for a federal bill to recognize unborn children as human beings “that may not be killed” has been deleted. 

Masters has also dropped language from his site suggesting Trump won the 2020 election and removed references to a racist conspiracy theory that claims Democrats are trying to “import” immigrant voters. 

“They’re doing the traditional pivot to the middle for the general election,” said Tyler Montague, a veteran Arizona Republican consultant. “He needs to appeal to moderates in the middle to win. So, he’s trying to walk back the super pro-life positions to something that more closesly reflects the electorate.”

Masters’ scrubbing of his campaign website, first reported by NBC News, comes as a major Republican Super PAC diverts resources from the Senate race in Arizona to other 2022 battleground states. 

Republican U.S. senatorial candidate Blake Masters speaks during his election night watch party on August 02, 2022 in Chandler, Arizona.  BRANDON BELL / Getty Images

The Senate Leadership Fund (SLF), a GOP group allied with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, pulled back $8 million in ad buys from the Arizona race last week and doesn’t plan to go back on air until October. 

“That sends a message that they don’t think that Masters can pull it off. That is the loudest message you can hear right there,” Montague said. 

In a statement to CBS News, SLF President Steven Law said the super PAC wants to move resources to “other offensive opportunities that have become increasingly competitive,” adding that “we’re leaving the door wide open in Arizona.”

“We see multiple paths to winning the majority, and we are going to invest heavily and strategically to achieve that goal,” Law said.

Some Republican strategists say Masters still has time to appeal to moderate voters. The electorate in Arizona is split into thirds with independents making up the second largest voting bloc, just behind Republicans. 

Chuck Warren, a national Republican strategist who’s worked on campaigns in Arizona, thinks that if Masters can successfully tie incumbent Democratic Senator Mark Kelly to President Joe Biden’s low favorability in the state, “then this a real flip of a coin race.”

Warren said Masters needs to “focus on kitchen table issues” instead of trying to go viral for controversial comments that force his campaign to play defense. 

Earlier this week, Masters posted a tweet tying economic downturns to an increase in diversity at the Federal Reserve Bank. He followed that up with a video message calling Vice President Kamala Harris “so incompetent she can’t even get a sentence out” and suggested she was seleted for role because Biden wanted to fulfill race and gender quotas. 

“I’ve never spoken to anyone who can say with a straight face that Kamala was somehow the most qualified candidate for that job,” Masters said. 

Republican strategists fear these types of Trumpian insults – ones that helped Masters win the primary by double digits – might also cause him to lose the general election, which they believe a more mainstream conservative would have won.

They think it’s a missed opportunity, after sensing earlier this summer that the political environment heavily favored conservatives. 

“I’m frustrated that Trump saddled us with these candidates that aren’t going to most likely be winners,” Montague said.

The Trump-endorsed candidates for Senate, governor, secretary of state, and attorney general often campaigned together across Arizona and easily won their primaries.

But with the general election less than 10 weeks away, some Republican strategists in Arizona say their party chose the riskiest candidates in every statewide contest. 

A recent Fox News poll of registered Arizona voters showed Masters trailing Kelly by 8 points. Another one of likely 2022 voters showed Kelly leading Masters by more than 3 points. 

“I don’t see how Blake Masters wins this general election,” a longtime Arizona GOP strategist said. “The guy does not understand Arizona and continues to be like ‘oh well, you know, we’re just gonna swing as far right as we can and then he’s got no room to maneuver.”

For some Republicans in Arizona, that brings back memories of the 2018 Senate race when GOP nominee Martha McSally lost to Democrat Kyrsten Sinema.

McSally bested Trump-aligned candidates Kelli Ward and Joe Arpaio in the 2018 primary. Montague described that race as a competition to see which candidate was the most “bombastic, far-right, meat eating person wrapped around Trump’s leg.” 

He said McSally lost in 2018 because she failed to appeal to moderates and questioned whether Masters can execute a pivot in the final weeks. 

Warren said Masters needs to focus his messaging on the economy, crime, and border security. He said if the Masters campaign can properly communicate on these issues then “this will be a really interesting and tight race.”

There is also a big gap in fundraising and with the SLF pausing spending in Arizona, it will be up to Masters to make up the difference. He has only raised $5 million this cycle, compared to the $54 million Kelly has raised so far. 

But Masters does have the support of big tech billionaire Peter Thiel. The mega donor gave $15 million to start the Saving Arizona super PAC, which spent the money on behalf of Masters during the primary. 

Theil is also providing heavy financial support for J.D Vance, the GOP nominee for Senate in Ohio. The Senate Leadership Fund has already spent over $26.7 million for ads this cycle in the Ohio Senate race, according to data from AdImpact. 

Republican operatives say with McConnell’s group pausing spending in Arizona, Theil needs to pony up for his chosen candidate.

The billionaire’s money could help Masters stay within striking distance of Kelly and give Republicans a shot at taking back the Senate.