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Tim Steller's column: Trump-backed candidates flash unwise devotion after search

You want to know why the FBI searched Donald Trump’s place at Mar-a-Lago Monday?

Just ask the candidates Trump endorsed who won primary elections in Arizona. They seem to know everything about it.

They immediately concluded via social media Monday that Trump was the victim of a politicized FBI carrying out a vendetta against the ex-president.

How do they know that? It’s unclear.

In fact, maybe, just maybe, their knee-jerk reactions display a weird devotion to the former president that overrode their common sense and even their strategic wisdom about the coming general election.

Take Kari Lake, the GOP candidate for governor, for example. Like the others I’ll mention, Lake benefited deeply from a Trump endorsement. Maybe she wouldn’t have won without it, since she beat Karrin Taylor Robson by a pretty narrow margin, 47.8% to 43.3%.

In a social-media post, Lake absurdly declared Monday “one of the darkest days in American history, the day our Government, originally created by by the people, turned against us.”

She went on, “This illegitimate, corrupt Regime hates America and has weaponized the entirety of the Federal Government to take down President Donald Trump.”

“As governor,” she said, “I will fight these Tyrants with every fiber of my being.”

Well, that’s a platform for governor of Arizona, I guess.

The GOP candidate for attorney general, Abraham Hamadeh, was calm, cool and collected in his reaction.

Just kidding: Hamadeh completely lost it, too.

“Our justice system has been HIJACKED,” he tweeted. “Our FBI has been CORRUPTED. It’s time to restore LAW & ORDER.”

It’s bad enough for a candidate for governor to go off the deep end the way Lake did, but it means a bit more when someone wanting to be the state’s top law-enforcement officer does so. It raises the question of what he knows about the judicial system and how prudently he would use the powers of the office.

U.S. Senate candidate Blake Masters, who got a big boost from Trump’s endorsement, quickly swung to the former president’s defense, too.

“Everyone knows this was politically motivated,” Masters tweeted. “And that should terrify us all.”

He went on: “When street crimes go unsolved but opposition leaders are hounded by federal police, you’re living in a third world country.”

I suppose that’s possible, but it’s also possible that the search shows we live in a country where the rule of law applies even to the most powerful — rarely true in developing countries.

But who am I to question the candidates’ judgment? We should probably trust the judgment of people like Mark Finchem, the state legislator from Oro Valley who has become a top Trump ally and the GOP candidate for secretary of state.

His assessment on Twitter: “The DOJ didn’t just unite the Republican party, they united all Americans against their tyranny.”

On Telegram he went even further: “The FBI just united the entire world behind President Trump.”

The whole world! Finchem and many other Trump supporters tend to have an exaggerated view of Trump’s popularity because they feel so strongly about him and surround themselves with others who feel the same way.

That’s why the only way they can explain the fact that Trump lost Arizona is by saying he was cheated. They can’t imagine an Arizona that did not feel the same way about him that they do.

But Tucson Republican Benny White and two fellow election researchers have proven conclusively why Trump lost the state by a narrow margin in 2020: People who otherwise voted for Republicans chose not to vote for Trump at the top of the ticket.

That’s part of what makes the decision to needlessly rush to Trump’s defense over the FBI search so puzzling.

Yes, these candidates likely required Trump’s endorsement in order to win their primaries. The voters in the Republican primary apparently placed high value on Trump’s endorsement.

But that is not a majority of Arizona voters. The voters who cast ballots for Lake in the primary amount to 9.4% of all Arizona registered voters. For Finchem, that figure is 7.8%; for Masters, 7.7%; for Hamadeh, 6.3%.

None of them even won more than 27% of registered Republicans’ votes. And Republicans only make up 34% of Arizona’s electorate. The remaining 66% is unlikely to include many similar Trump devotees.

Now, one could argue that the search of Trump’s home raises unprecedented questions about the application of the rule of law in America. It does! But that argument cuts both ways: You can just as easily say that the search shows nobody is above the law as you can argue that it shows bias.

None of these candidates actually knew the reasons for the search when they opined about its supposed wrongfulness on Monday. In fact, it emerged Tuesday that the search was apparently part of an investigation into Trump allegedly keeping classified documents he was supposed to turn over to the National Archives.

Not exactly a bombshell political investigation.

This shows why the Trump endorsed candidates should have been more circumspect. I think we all understand their strong feelings of devotion about Trump, whose presidency they supported and who helped launch them to political success in the state primary.

But they all, especially Hamadeh, ought to show the patience to wait to see the legal and procedural justification for the search before they pass judgment.

They should do that not just because it’s right and shows maturity, but also because it makes political sense in Arizona’s general election.

Contact columnist Tim Steller at tsteller@tucson.com or 520-807-7789. On Twitter: @senyorreporter


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