U.S. House Speaker, John Boehner, will be in Arizona on Saturday, March 29th for a fundraising lunch to support CD 2 candidate Martha McSally and CD 1 candidate Andy Tobin. The invitation says Marana but for a $500 lunch, they might as well just have disclosed that it will be at The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain (only $1,500 if you want to join the photo line).
Boehner’s support for McSally is not a surprise. She came within less than 2,500 votes of beating the Democratic incumbent currently holding the seat and her fundraising has been very strong this cycle. She is well positioned to beat that same incumbent, even in a standard mid-term election. And this year is shaping up to be more Republican friendly than normal. McSally does have two or three (depending on what day of the week it is) challengers in the primary, but none of them seems to have made a breakout that could reasonably threaten her near lock on the nomination.
None of the candidates running against McSally are really trying to get very far to the right of her, a la Jesse Kelly, so the fact that she is seen with the increasingly squishy Boehner will not significantly hurt her chances of securing the nomination.
The situation is quite different in the adjacent District 1. Andy Tobin faces two viable alternatives that may either have more money or are noticeably to the right of Tobin, Gary Kiehne and Adam Kwasman respectively. And they both actually live in District 1, unlike Tobin who resides outside the boundaries of AZ-01.
Kiehne is already on the air with a respectable introductory radio ad. His willingness to spend money is evidenced by his renewal of the original ad purchase. He is conservative enough to make him a viable GOP candidate and would normally attract the support of Boehner and the NRCC; a successful businessman willing to pony of some of his own cash in order to be first across the finish line. (Actually, an NRCC dream date.)
Adam Kwasman is the kind of principled conservative that gives the NRCC night sweats so it is no surprise that the NRCC and Boehner would openly support his opponent in the primary. The Washington establishment knows they cannot control Kwasman like they can Tobin, so they go all in for the more flexible Tobin.
The problem with Boehner’s gambit is that it could easily backfire. It will only reinforce Kiehne’s contention that the system is rigged and you need an outside like him who will answer to the people in the district, not leadership in Washington. Kwasman can link the amnesty leaning, budget busting record of Boehner to Tobin in an effort to further motivate the conservative base that already seems to be leaning toward Kwasman.
Two words sum of the risk Boehner is taking by openly favoring Tobin in the primary – “Raul Labrador”. In his 2010 primary, Labrador dispatched the NRCC anointed candidate and then went on to win the general election. The NRCC now has a 2/3 chance that the AZ-01 nominee and possible congressman will not look kindly on their requests to fall in line and support Boehner’s agenda of capitulation and compromise.