Wednesday, March 22, 2023
HomeLatest NewsRuben Gallego thinks someone as liberal as him can win the Senate...

Ruben Gallego thinks someone as liberal as him can win the Senate – The Arizona Republic

Opinion: The far left can win in Arizona, Ruben Gallego says, thanks to the far right. But that might not be the case by 2024.

U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego announced today that he will run in 2024 for the U.S. Senate in Arizona and prove that a strident, liberal Democrat can win Arizona.

The door opened for his party in 2018, when Kyrsten Sinema became the first Arizona Democrat in three decades to win a Senate seat here. Drawing from Sinema’s centrist playbook, Democrat Mark Kelly soon followed in 2020.

But when U.S. President Joe Biden took a hard left turn after winning the presidency in 2020, much of the Democratic Senate zagged left with him. Sinema did not.

That infuriated the Democratic base in Arizona and nationally, and they grabbed their torch lights and pitchforks and began to hunt her down, vowing to defeat her in the next election. The party censured Sinema and eventually drove her out. If she runs in 2024, it will be as an independent.

Is Gallego’s playbook a winner in Arizona?

At the front of the anti-Sinema mob was Arizona U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego, who uses social media as a club to go after mostly strident Republicans and Democrats who aren’t sufficiently left-wing.

Is that the playbook for success in Arizona?

Gallego says it is. His state has changed much in the past decade and the Latino vote is getting ready to roar, he argues.

Congressional shift:How did Arizona get here and what happens next?

Gallego is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and first vice chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

He is banking on identity politics to deliver victory next year. But, to his credit, he does not practice identity politics the same way modern cis-gender, intersectional and LGBTQ-plus-plus-plus progressives play the game.

He plays identity politics the old-fashioned way

In his way, Gallego is old school. He is harnessing a rising ethnic wave of his own people the way the Kennedys rode a blue-collar Irish wave to win elected office in Massachusetts.

Gallego actually has a healthy skepticism for white liberals, and their Bryn Mawr ethics and heavy-handed social justice.

He gave voice to this in 2020 when one of the Democratic faithful tweeted, “How do we as a party improve our work with the LatinX community … ? Its so frustrating to see so many Republican LatinX voters.”

Gallego responded, “First start by not using the term Latinx. Second we have to be in front of them year round not just election years. That is what we did in AZ.”

As Gallego reads the political landscape, he is the ideal candidate to take on MAGA Republicans and their slash-and-burn politics because he can slash and burn with the best of them.

He proved this when he called GOP Sen. Ted Cruz a “f—ing baby killer,” and has proved it over and over again with a Twitter vocabulary that eats through rust.

There may not be a MAGA for Gallego to fight

Gallego expects he can win a 2024 Democratic primary and then take on whichever extremist the Republicans elect, he told CBS News in December. “If you look at the past, the Republicans have always put up someone who represents the base of the Republican Party. So, I think they would still put up somebody who is considered extreme.”

But will Republicans oblige?

The Republican Party is still reeling from a 2022 midterm that went sour on them. Kari Lake went down hard, and the Democrats now hold the governor’s office, attorney general, and secretary of state, along with Arizona’s two U.S. Senate seats.

The Arizona Republican Party went full MAGA and it was a disaster in the same way Trump candidates were a disaster nationally in the midterms, losing virtually all of the marquee races.

The Republican reckoning has been brutal.

Donald Trump’s party has now lost three national elections in a row. And acting as if nothing happened, Trump has stepped up to announce another run for the White House.

But the reception on the right is tepid. And more and more polling shows Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis would defeat Trump in a head-to-head primary. More interestingly, a number of polls show that if Republicans put up Trump against Biden, they’ll lose a fourth round of national elections.

New viability polls indicate DeSantis would beat or tie Joe Biden. Donald Trump would lose.

Don’t expect Kari Lake to be his opponent

If Gallego is planning to run against Kari Lake, he should think again. Kari Lake crested in October 2022 when polls began to turn in her direction and the national media discovered her, describing her as the next big thing – a potential rival to Trump and DeSantis.

Since then, it has been a steep fall. She lost the governor’s race, then Trump-like refused to accept the results. Even now, she continues to tilt at last year’s windmill. She is becoming a comic figure.

A Kari Lake who would run for U.S. Senate in 2024 would be a much-diminished candidate from what she was last year, and the Trump brand she so audaciously flaunts has been shrinking.

In 2022, after more than 20 years on Valley TV news establishing herself as a household name, she defeated Karrin Taylor Robson, a long-time lawyer-developer, who was a virtual unknown to average voters. But the race was closer than many expected, less than 5 points separating the two, with a third candidate Matt Salmon cutting into Taylor Robson’s vote.

If Taylor Robson runs again, she’ll begin with greater name recognition and a Republican Party still smarting from Lake’s sharply honed Trumpism. Are Republicans ready to fall on that MAGA sword again?

Gallego should not count on it.

Don’t count out Republicans in Arizona

Republicans actually won the popular vote nationally in the 2022 midterms, but in a post-mortem panel discussion, Yale political scientist Joshua Kalla noted that the party underperformed by nearly two percentage points.

The panel pointed to key reasons why the Republicans lost: They put up too many extreme candidates and the Democrats far outspent them on television advertising.

If Republicans can correct those problems, they will make themselves competitive again. In Arizona, Republicans still enjoy about a 160,000 voter registration advantage over Democrats.

And Sinema is a wild card. It isn’t clear how she would change the dynamics of the race. Or if she could win it, drawing voters from both left and right.

Gallego has the chops to be a U.S. senator

Ruben Gallego has one of the most intriguing life stories among Arizona politicians. He grew up sleeping on the floor of his parents’ apartment on Chicago’s southside, the son of a Mexican immigrant father and Columbian American mother. 

He spent part of his years working on a family farm in Mexico and grew up to go to Harvard, join the U.S. Marines and fight for a unit that faced some of the fiercest combat in Iraq.

He has seen all sides of America, from the grit of the inner city to the brick-and-ivy at Cambridge. He has a good B.S. detector for the nonsense on the left and the right, and a winning personality, the kind that can charm working people over beer in a tavern.

He’s shown a good nature when it comes to defending Republican colleagues whom he thinks have been mistreated. An instinct that won’t win him approval on his own side of the aisle.

If he can find crossover appeal, look out

But he is an unabashed liberal who has lashed himself to Joe Biden and all of his whale-like spending. He accuses Sinema of thwarting Biden’s agenda, but also told CBS News, “(Biden) has had one of the most consequential first four years as a Democratic president in quite awhile.”

He dwells on the spending side of the national purse without much concern for the debt side of the ledger. He wants to spend more on health care and other social programs, and he wants to keep raising the minimum wage without considering the burden it creates along with greater taxes and regulations for small businesses, such as the ones Latinos are building all across this state.

Will that work in Arizona?

I don’t think so. But Gallego is a player for decades. Unlike much of the Democratic base, he sees politics as a means to practical ends. It’s not his religion. If he ever learns to take on left-wing extremism with the same gusto he challenges right-wing kooks, look out. His crossover appeal would be limitless.

Phil Boas is an editorial columnist for The Arizona Republic. Email him at

Facebook Twitter Email

- Advertisment -

Most Popular

Recent Comments