With two weeks to go before Arizona's heated Republican primary for governor, the contest on Saturday turned into one of Mike Pence vs. Donald Trump by proxy.
At a time when the race for the nomination to succeed termed-out GOP Gov. Doug Ducey is tightening, former Vice President Pence issued a strong endorsement of former University of Arizona Regent Karrin Taylor Robson.
Robson is opposing former TV newscaster Kari Lake, who has the strong backing of Trump — under whom Pence served as vice president. The former president has appeared at a rally in the Grand Canyon State on Lake's behalf and issued several statements of praise for her candidacy.
On Saturday, Pence hailed Robson as "the only candidate for governor that will keep Arizona's border secure and streets safe, empower parents and create great schools, and promote conservative values."
Trump's vice president will appear at an event on the border with Robson on Friday.
For much of their contest, Lake has held a comfortable lead in the polls of likely Republican voters. But a just-completed HighGround poll shows Lake now edging Robson 39% to 35.3% — the closest the two competitors have been in any survey so far.
Several Arizona Republican sources credit Robson's recent surge to the withdrawal of former Rep. Matt Salmon from the primary and his subsequent endorsement of Robson.
Conservatives in Arizona are split on the race. Former state GOP Chair Randy Pullen, an early Trump backer in 2016, told Newsmax "I support Karrin because she has conservative views on every issue — the economy, education, illegal immigration — and she has experience as a lawyer and in government to take action on these issues."
Pullen also pointed out that "registered independents are requesting many more Republican primary ballots than Democratic primary ballots. This will be a close one."
Trump and Pence have clashed in other primaries, notably in Idaho, were the former president supported Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin's primary challenge to Gov. Brad Little. Pence supported Little, who won by 52%-32%.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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