Arizona Republicans fear ‘we’re going to shoot ourselves in the foot’ by chasing Trump ‘down the rabbit hole’
Donald Trump speaking with supporters at a campaign rally at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Arizona. (Gage Skidmore)

A slate full of conspiracy cranks and right-wing extremists is threatening to undermine the Republican Party's chances next year in Arizona, which has been tilting toward the left in recent elections.

The state's GOP-led Senate authorized a lengthy and widely criticized "audit" of Donald Trump's election loss, and former TV anchor Kari Lake and state Rep. Mark Finchem have made the former president's "fraud" conspiracies a centerpiece of their campaigns for statewide office -- and Arizona Republicans worry that will doom them in the midterms, reported Politico.

"The goalposts keep moving," said Bill Gates, a Republican Maricopa County supervisor. "It used to be that we got into genuine debates about whether you're more of a conservative or a moderate. We used to debate over ideology, and now it is how far you can go down the rabbit hole of conspiracy theories, and if you're unwilling to do it, it doesn't matter if you're pro-life, if you've never voted for a tax increase. It doesn't matter. It's all about going deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole, unfortunately."

The state's congressional delegation Rep. Paul Gosar and Rep. Andy Biggs, both of whom were implicated in the "Stop the Steal" rally by organizer Ali Alexander, and Ron Watkins, the purported head of the QAnon conspiracy movement, hopes to join them in Congress.

"I don't think anyone considers [Watkins] a serious candidate," said longtime GOP consultant and former state legislator Stan Barnes, who nonetheless finds the QAnon celebrity's campaign a bad omen. "The center is not holding in the political spectrum. You need to understand that among Republican primary voters, the concept that President Trump was done wrong in the Arizona election scores very high. It is a very popular opinion, majority opinion, among Republican voters who will turn out in the Republican primary."

But that's not the case outside of deeply conservative circles, and certainly not among independent voters.

"I think people are getting tired of hearing it," said Delos Bond, the GOP chair in Apache County, which Joe Biden won by 30 points. "I really think we're going to shoot ourselves in the foot if we just expound on 2020."