PRESCOTT VALLEY, Ariz. — This summer, the family of Shardé Walter cut back on everything from camping trips to Eggo waffles to balance their inflation-tight budget, She is increasingly fed up with the Republicans who have ruled Arizona for more than a decade.
Ms. Walter, 36, was waiting for former President Donald J. Trump to nominate his nominee in Arizona’s hotly contested Republican primary on Friday.
“We’re doing everything we can,” she continued, “but we’re broke for no reason.”
The August 2 Republican primary in Arizona is seen as a partisan race between traditional Republicans and Trump loyalists with the ability to reshape politics at the heart of the battle for voting rights and fair elections battlefield. Several of Arizona’s leading Republican governors, secretary of state, attorney general and U.S. Senate candidates have made lies about the “stolen” 2020 election central to their campaigns.
But the choice between traditional conservatives and Trump-backed demagogues also capitalized on working-class conservatives’ frustration with the Republican-held state’s economy and political system, underscoring the benefits of rising home prices and tax cuts in Arizona. The disparity among voters who profited. The rich, and those who feel left out and eager to punish the Republican establishment at the ballot box.
“It’s like ‘The Great Gatsby’ — old and new,” said Mike Noble, research director at Phoenix-based polling firm OH Predictive Insights. “This is a very telling moment for the Republicans, are they going the MAGA path, or the McCain-Goldwater conservative path that allows them to dominate the country?”
Voter views of Mr. Trump and the 2020 election are breaking down along education lines, a national survey of Republicans shows.
A New York Times/Siena College poll released this month found that 64 percent of Republican primary voters without a college degree believe Trump is the legitimate winner of the 2020 election. Among Republican voters with a bachelor’s degree or higher, 44% see Trump as the winner.
Mr. Trump clearly remains a favorite among Republican voters with a high school degree or less, with 62 percent saying they would vote for him in the 2024 Republican presidential primary if the election were held today. Less than 30 percent of Republican primary voters with college degrees said they would vote for Trump.
In Arizona’s gubernatorial race, the Republican establishment rallied around wealthy real estate developer Karrin Taylor Robson, who described herself as a competent leader since her job in the Reagan White House She’s been a solid conservative since the beginning of the year.
The party’s Trump faction is locked behind Kari Lake, a Trump-backed former news anchor who is accused of lying about the 2020 election and vowing to bomb smuggling tunnels along the southern border, among other things The provocative act sparked an anti-establishment rebellion.
Ms Robson has eroded Ms Lake’s early lead in the polls, but recent polls show Ms Lake still has a lead.
A forthcoming poll of 650 Arizona Republican primary voters by Alloy Analytics finds Ms. Lake leading by 10 percentage points, largely because of her advantage among working-class voters, even though other surveys suggest a tighter race. Among voters with household incomes under $50,000 a year, Ms. Lake has a 15-point advantage. Republicans earning more than $200,000 a year supported Ms. Robson by 14 percentage points.
Ms. Robson funded her campaign with $15 million and ran ads on local television. She has the backing of law enforcement groups, Arizona’s three living Republican governors and prominent national Republicans, including former Vice President Mike Pence and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
The two women, both pro-life, pro-gun, pro-wall conservatives, have vowed to mobilize law enforcement to address what they call the immigration invasion. Neither has had a chance to lash out at President Biden and Democrats about inflation, crime or cultural war flashpoints like critical race theory.
Everyone tries to claim to be the only truly conservative person in the race. During a debate, Ms Lake attacked Ms Robson for refusing to raise her hand with other candidates and for falsely declaring the 2020 election stolen. Ms Robson told voters that 2020 was “unfair”, pointing to bias in the news media and pandemic-driven changes to voting rules. In a recent CNN appearance, she declined to say whether she would certify the 2020 results, as Mr. Ducey did.
Ms. Robson said in an interview that Ms. Lake’s stance as a conservative was “unsubstantiated” and her campaign slammed Ms. Lake for supporting former President Barack Obama.
“She’s a very good actress,” Ms Robson said. “We have real problems to deal with, from water to housing to inflation.”
Ms. Lake’s story of populist sermons and political awakening in the Trump era has struck a chord with unconventional conservatives who say they feel excluded from mainstream Republican politics. Ms Lake’s campaign was not available for an interview.
Moderates say they just want a solid Republican governor, and they are reassured by Ms. Robson’s raft of support and policy plans.
The differences between the two candidates came into focus at a contest rally on Friday, where Ms. Robson was cheered by Mr. Pence and Mr. Trump appeared alongside Ms. Lake.
In Peoria, a suburb of Phoenix, Arizona, Ms. Robson’s rally felt like an oversized Chamber of Commerce luncheon.
Hundreds of voters in casual Friday polo shirts and summer weight tops sat and ate a barbecue at a factory that makes military tactical gear as Mr. Pence and Gov. Doug Ducey spoke, supporting Ms. Robson as A loyal conservative.
Later that night, at Trump’s event, Ms. Lake mocked Mr. Ducey for being a “weak” and “duce doing nothing” on border security. Mr. Ducey has angered Mr. Trump by proving Mr. Biden’s 10,000-vote victory in Arizona, even as he signed into law a new voter ID law opposed by Democrats and backed people like state Sen. Wendy Rogers (Wendy Rogers) fringe right-wing politicians.
Supporters of Ms. Robson say they too feel trapped by rising prices, but more urgently, they want the next governor to be an electable conservative rather than an heir to teach Mr. Trump the bomb.
“What she worries about, we worry about,” said Barb Leonard, 55, who works in software and lives in Scottsdale. “Border, economy, police.”
Some voters said they did not believe the lies about election fraud that Trump and Lake have been peddling for months. Others said they want Republicans to stop focusing on the 2020 election and focus instead on border security, school funding and bipartisan laws to deal with Arizona’s growing drought, water scarcity and wildfires.
Political analysts in Arizona say some voters appear to be backing Ms Robson as the least divisive election option. Democrats are expected to nominate Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, who has defended Arizona’s electoral system against attacks by Trump and his allies.
“I don’t want to raise my kids in a country that hates each other,” said Derek Weech, 23, a Brigham Young student and a supporter of Ms. Robson. He is trying to start his own business. “Focusing on the last election is not going to get us to victory.”
So far this year’s Republican primary has been a mixed bag for Trump-backed candidates who reject the election. “Hillbilly Dirge” author JD Vance wins the U.S. Senate primary in Ohio. Doug Mastriano has won Pennsylvania’s Republican primary for governor after leading efforts to overturn the 2020 election results.
But last month in Colorado, Republican voters nominated a businessman to accept the 2020 election result in a closely contested U.S. Senate race. In Georgia, voters overwhelmingly supported the incumbent Republican governor and secretary of state, both of whom refused to overturn the 2020 election results there, giving Trump a bitter defeat.
In Prescott Valley, Mr. Trump’s anti-establishment messages and appearances were enough to draw thousands of supporters through the door.
Wearing T-shirts that read “Trump wins,” “Jihadi Joe,” and “Let’s go to Brandon,” they poured into an arena with their contempt and frustration, an understatement of Mr. Biden blasphemy.
When Ms. Lake spoke to the crowd, she was greeted with applause every time she taunted Mr. Biden and called for the border wall to be completed. But one of the biggest cheers came when she mentioned her plan to have high school students focus on learning to trade after their sophomore year.
The idea immediately won over retired auto technician Bruce Laughlin and his wife, Cheryl, a dental assistant.
“None of us went to college,” Ms Laughlin said.
“We need carpenters. We need plumbers,” her husband said. “They were completely ignored.”
Janet Olson, 50, said soaring gas, electricity and grocery bills made her feel like she wasn’t sharing in Arizona’s boom. She only has enough money left to indulge once a month. On Friday, she loaded the last $9.95 into a truck and drove up the hills from outside Phoenix to visit Ms. Lake and Mr. Trump.
“Every month is harder,” Ms Olson said.
She said she felt alienated from mainstream Republicans in Arizona, but at home, people waited in line with her for $4.50 bottled water and $5 nachos.
“We don’t want bow ties and caviar,” Ms Olson said. “We want corn dogs and funnel cakes. And Lake Cary.”
Will Davis provided reporting.