Martha McSally played it safe in her 2016 campaign, refusing to endorse or disavow Donald Trump. She would only say that she “might” vote for him, insisting it was a private decision between “me, God and the ballot box.” She told local press she “hadn’t been paying that much attention” to Trump’s campaign: “I just don’t have the time.” She said the outcome of the presidential race wouldn’t impact the way she did her job: “I’m going to continue to be that independent voice for Southern Arizonans regardless of who wins the White House.”
Pre-election, she demonstrated a willingness to criticize Trump when it was called for. She said she “utterly disagreed” with his proposed withdrawal of support from NATO, and after Trump was caught on tape making lewd remarks about groping women, she tweeted that she was “appalled” and that his comments were “disgusting.” His proposed Muslim ban drew an especially strong reaction. She called it “ridiculous”:
“This is against everything that we believe in as a party, and what we believe in as a country. At least a couple of the bill of rights are being violated by this hateful talk… I really strongly condemn it.”
Distancing herself from Trump was an effective political strategy; even as Trump lost in AZ-02 by nearly 5%, McSally hung on to her seat in Congress.
But any voters hoping that she would follow through on her commitment to “be that independent voice” have since been disappointed. McSally has voted 100% in line with Donald Trump’s agenda. She has voted several times to block the release of his tax returns, and against an independent commission to investigate his campaign’s ties to Russia.
She has also changed or softened her position on several issues to align herself more closely with Trump. Several examples:
Before the election, as noted above, she “strongly condemned” his proposed Muslim ban; post-election, as he attempted to put it into effect, she issued a statement with a much different message and tone: “taking a comprehensive look at [gaps in our vetting process] is prudent and should be expected of any new administration.”
Instead of keeping her promise to protect her constituents with pre-existing conditions, she enthusiastically supported Trump’s health care bill (read more here).
She was sharply critical of candidate Trump’s stance on NATO, insisting, “we strongly need to adhere to our Article 5 responsibilities.” But after President Trump went to Europe and pointedly refused to reaffirm America’s commitment to Article 5, prompting global criticism and alarm, McSally was silent. She did speak out a few days later at a private reception for the Arizona Bankers Association – not against Trump, but against her constituents who don’t support him: “There’s just an element out there that’s just, like, sooo against the president. Like they just can’t see straight.”
It should be noted that McSally and Trump share many of the same wealthy backers, including Sheldon Adelson, Ronald Cameron, Ken Griffin, Bernard Marcus, Linda McMahon, Robert Mercer, Marlene Ricketts, and Paul E. Singer.