Sebastian Gorka, the former Trump advisor who's been accused of having ties to a Hungarian Nazi group, is the latest far-right figure to endorse Kelli Ward's campaign for U.S. Senate.
"She wanted me to come out here to convince you that she understands national security, but I don't need do that," Gorka declared at Ward's "Making America Safe Again" rally in Scottsdale on Thursday night. "This is a woman who has common sense. This is a woman who gets things done. Just like someone else I know."
That someone, of course, is President Donald Trump, who Gorka described as literally heaven-sent.
"I don't care which god you pray to, but I tell you what," he said. "There is proof that he exists, and that's called November 8th, 2016."
If you were to draw a Venn diagram of Ward supporters and Trump supporters, it would be a circle. But Ward doesn't draw the same kinds of crowds as Trump does — and neither, apparently, does Gorka.
The ballroom at the Hilton Scottsdale Resort and Villas was only about half-filled with people in sequined MAGA tank tops and biker vests. And aside from a visiting reporter from The Guardian and a writer from an obscure Catholic newspaper who scribbled furiously on a legal pad, the press section was sparsely populated.
Meanwhile, the counterprotesters who'd planned to show up — according to a Twitter post from Antifascist Action Phoenix — never materialized.
The rally opened up with a prayer asking God "that you give us the ability to drain the swamp." Sticking to that theme, both Gorka and Ward lobbed criticisms at establishment Republicans, including Senate leader Mitch McConnell and Arizona senators John McCain and Jeff Flake.
"John McCain is not a Republican," Gorka said to loud applause. "The man promises that he's going to get our health care back, and then breaks his promise to the nation?"
As for Ward, he added, "Going up against that man tells you everything you need to know about her."
Ward, a former state legislator from Lake Havasu City, introduced herself to the crowd as "Kelli with an I - because I care about people."
That blanket statement doesn't include DACA recipients, however.
"People say, 'What about DACA? What about DACA?'" she said, mimicking a falsetto voice. "Well, what about DACA? I do not believe we should address any permanent solution for DACA until we secure the border, stop chain migration — "
She was drowned out by cheers. It was impossible to hear the end of her sentence, which had something to do with sanctuary cities and E-Verify.
Over the course of the evening, both Gorka and Ward repeatedly returned to two main topics: The Wall (we should build it) and guns (they're good, and the Parkland students who want to take them away are bad). They also repeatedly emphasized how well things are going with Trump in charge.
"I am the only wife and the only mom in this race," Ward said. "And I'll tell you something, all you moms out there — all the dads, too, but especially the moms — you feel it in your heart, what's happening in this country, the way this country is going."
In one corner of the room, a cardboard cutout of Donald Trump was wearing a Ward for U.S. Senate sticker. The real Donald Trump, however, has yet to endorse Ward or any of the other candidates in what's currently a tight three-way contest for the Republican nomination.
And Gorka dismissed the suggestion that he could push Trump to pick a favorite.
"He can do whatever he likes," he said at a press availability prior to the rally. "He's the president. My opinion is you respect the office — it's the most powerful position in the world and you've got to be careful of not undermining or overexposing it. Some races he's going to step in because there's a personal connection, or it's very important, but I'm not counseling him to go where he doesn't want to go."
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