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McSally defeats primary challenger for GOP Senate nod in Arizona

McSally defeats primary challenger for GOP Senate nod in Arizona
© Greg Nash

Sen. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyArizona certifies Biden's victory over Trump The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Capital One - Biden unveils batch of his White House team Mark Kelly to be sworn in as senator on Wednesday MORE (R-Ariz.) clinched the Republican Senate nomination in Arizona on Tuesday, overcoming a primary challenge from political newcomer Daniel McCarthy, who ran to the right of the GOP incumbent.

McSally was largely favored to win her primary and paid little attention to McCarthy throughout her primary campaign, opting instead to run against the presumptive Democratic nominee, former astronaut Mark KellyMark KellyVideo shows Arizona governor ignoring 'Hail to the Chief' call while certifying Biden victory The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Mastercard - GOP angst in Georgia; confirmation fight looms Arizona certifies Biden's victory over Trump MORE

McCarthy, meanwhile, sought to cast himself as the more reliable conservative in the race, while hammering McSally for her loss to Democrat Kyrsten Sinema in Arizona’s 2018 Senate race. 

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McSally ultimately maintained the backing of President TrumpDonald John TrumpGeraldo Rivera on Trump sowing election result doubts: 'Enough is enough now' Murkowski: Trump should concede White House race Scott Atlas resigns as coronavirus adviser to Trump MORE and the National Republican Senatorial Committee. With the nomination shored up, she is expected to face Kelly in one of the closest-watched Senate races of the 2020 election cycle.

McSally enters the general election fight in a particularly vulnerable place. Kelly leads in nearly every recent poll and has a yawning financial advantage. His most recent Federal Election Commission filings showed him with nearly $24 million in the bank. McSally, by comparison, reported less than half of that.

Arizona is among a handful of states that Democrats are targeting this year as part of their bid to recapture a majority in the Senate. The party is also looking to flip GOP-held seats in Colorado, Maine, North Carolina and Montana, among others. 

But McSally’s seat may just be the most vulnerable. It’s the only one that the Cook Political Report currently puts in its lean Democratic column. 

Republicans haven’t written off McSally yet. They argue that Kelly has yet to be fully vetted as a candidate and have sought to weaken him by attacking his business record. Republicans have also tried to tie him to the so-called “radical left” factions in the Democratic Party.