PHOENIX — The Republican president of the United States is visiting a state Tuesday night that voted for him in an effort to rally his base. But prominent Republicans there don’t seem to want anything to do with their party leader’s appearance.
Arizona Republican Gov. Doug Ducey plans to skip President Trump’s rally at the convention center in Phoenix and opt, instead, for a quick meet-and-greet on the tarmac when Air Force One arrives. The chair of the state Republican party, Jonathan Lines, also won’t be attending Trump’s rally. He’s from Yuma, the other Arizona city Trump plans to visit on Tuesday. But Lines’s spokesperson hasn’t said anything about meeting Trump while he’s there, either.
In recent weeks, Arizona has become the epicenter for Trump’s new war on the establishment GOP through his public fight with Republican Sen. Jeff Flake. Flake, who’s up for reelection next year and refused to endorse Trump last year, won’t be at the rally either. But Kelli Ward, Flake’s Republican primary opponent, who Trump has endorsed, is holding a day of interviews right around the corner from the convention center.
The mayor of Phoenix is concerned that the combination of the rally and progressive groups marching in protest will lead to violence. Last week, he called on the president to postpone the rally. Since it’s happening anyway, Phoenix is trying to be prepared. The city has activated its Emergency Operations Center, which signals officials are expecting large crowds downtown, and police presence on the streets will be beefed up. Areas around Trump’s rally are also being closed to traffic, and some businesses and schools are closing early.
Even the Arizona chapter of Bikers for Trump has offered to escort Trump supporters to the rally if they’re nervous they’ll be targeted by progressive marchers.
With all that hanging in the air — and with Trump’s approval ratings dropping rapidly — many party leaders are keeping out of sight. When VICE News reached out to the state GOP on Monday for interviews, no one was made available. Instead, the state party offered up a Phoenix-area millennial supporter of both Trump and former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio. But even she isn’t attending the rally either and prefers to watch it on TV instead.
Trump has hinted at pardoning Arpaio, who now has a criminal conviction related to the aggressive immigration raids he orchestrated as the Maricopa County sheriff. Arpaio, however, said he hasn’t been invited the rally either.
Despite the radio silence from Republicans, an effort to use Trump’s visit to boost the GOP is underway in Phoenix — It’s just happening outside of the limelight. A state GOP spokesperson told VICE News that hundreds of people reached out to volunteer for the rally, and the state party hosted a massive training Monday night to teach them how to gather names and build lists for the Republicans to use next year.