June 5, 2023

Dawson County Journal

Dawson County, Nebraska

How a third-party candidate dropping out could shake up Arizona’s close Senate race

Blake Masters’s chances of toppling Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) got a boost this week when Libertarian candidate Marc Victor dropped out and threw his support behind the GOP nominee, handing Republicans a last-minute lifeline in a race that has narrowed. 

Kelly has been considered the favorite to win reelection since Masters emerged from the early August primary battered and underfunded. 

But the wind has seemingly shifted and recent surveys show Masters gaining momentum at a crucial moment.

Victor’s announcement Tuesday added to the positive news for the Peter Thiel protégé. The Libertarian candidate was pulling between 2.7 percent and 6 percent support in recent public polls, opening the door to his decision having an impact on what is already a close race. 

“I think it could be a difference maker. There are a lot of ballots out there, and if the Libertarian pulls a couple percent, it can have an impact,” said Daniel Scarpinato, who served as a top aide to Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R). 

“We’ve seen that in Arizona in many cycles,” he added, pointing to past congressional races where a Libertarian candidate has helped play spoiler. 

In 2012, for example, the Libertarian candidate in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District pulled in more than 15,000 votes — or 6,500 more than separated the Democratic and Republican candidates.

Victor’s name, however, will remain on the ballot, meaning that he will still be a visible option for voters. And, as of Wednesday morning, more that 1 million voters have already returned their ballots since early voting began on Oct. 12.

Some Republicans are skeptical the move by Victor will swing the race in Masters’s direction — but they also argue it can’t hurt.

“Most of Marc Victor’s support comes from the fact that he’s not Blake Masters or Mark Kelly. Him pulling out doesn’t change that fact,” said Barrett Marson, an Arizona-based GOP strategist. “But in an uber-close race, it will definitely be helpful. But I don’t think the race will turn on it.”