'Widely unpopular' Kyrsten Sinema's Democratic departure may come back to haunt her
Kyrsten Sinema (Photo by Anna Moneymaker for AFP)

The move by Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (AZ) to deregister as a Democrat and reboot her political career as an independent may end up costing her a second term should she run again in 2024, reports Domenico Montanaro of NPR.

The controversial former Democrat dropped the bombshell on Friday morning that she was leaving the party just days after the Democrats secured a 51-seat majority in the Senate.

As Montanaro points out, a large part of the Arizona senator's motivation appears to be an effort to avoid an ugly primary fight for the 2024 Democratic nomination in light of her low approval numbers among all groups including Democrats, Republicans and independents -- and that is where her future plans may run into difficulties.

"It's certainly good publicity for someone with low approval ratings – just 37% overall, including 41% of independents, approved of the job Sinema was doing," the NPR editor wrote before adding, "She also needs to appeal to independents and moderate Republicans, because Arizona is a state where they matter a lot. More than a third of the state's voters identify as 'other,' and Republicans outnumber Democrats by more than 166,000."

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However, as he notes, if there is a 3-way race between Sinema as an independent, a Democrat and a Republican, she may not have the base of voters that she needs to be successful.

"It's not at all clear that, politically, Sinema's tactic will benefit her as much as she'd like," he wrote. "The reality is Sinema is less popular in the state than [Democratic Sen. Mark] Kelly or [President Joe] Biden, and Democratic polling has shown her getting trounced in a hypothetical head-to-head matchup against [Democratic Rep. Rueben] Gallego in a Democratic primary. So going 'independent' may be her only path to a general election. But there's no guarantee a Sinema independent bid would win her reelection."

"National Democrats will also have a decision to make – whether to support a 'Democrat' in the 2024 Arizona Senate election or to back Sinema," Montanaro wrote. "There's a real danger here for both the party and for Sinema. Backing someone wearing the team jersey could imperil Democrats' chances at retaining the seat. It's very likely her candidacy would pull more from the Democratic nominee and open up a path for a Republican to win with a mere plurality."

"Without party support, Sinema could find herself in something of a political no man's land. But she's banking on her brand being enough to pull from moderates on both sides," he added before predicting, "That's going to be a difficult test, especially since Sinema is widely unpopular."

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