Why does Kelli Ward hate old people? Because they drain her support.
The day after former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio threw his cowboy hat into the ring for Arizona's opening Senate seat, Ward went right after the octogenarian during an interview on Fox News.
Asked whether the sheriff was “a little old” to be running for Senate, Ward responded that voters were “looking for someone with a backbone of steel” and were “looking for fresh new ideas.” While those are nice platitudes, Ward didn’t offer any accompanying policy ideas — which would've been incredibly easy considering Arpaio's ridiculous, inhumane, and unconstitutional track record. She just highlighted the age difference.
Until being voted out as sheriff in 2016, the 86-year-old Arpaio won reelection five times and served for almost 25 years. And despite being sued by the Department of Justice for racial profiling and despite his conviction for criminal contempt of court, the lawless lawman is well-known. He is also somehow still popular enough to poll higher than Ward.
As the Washington Examiner reported yesterday, a new poll has Arpaio up 29 percent over Ward at 25 percent. That’s a 17-point drop for Ward from last November, and no doubt part of the reason she has made age an issue.
Rude but effective, Ward has made these attacks before.
When Ward was running against Sen. John McCain in 2016, Ward dinged that 81-year-old Arizona Republican for “falling down on the job.” His policies weren’t the problem, she continued during an interview on "Meet the Press"; it was that “he’s gotten weak, he’s gotten old.” McCain is now dying of brain cancer and no longer an obstacle for Ward.
As a short-term tactic, senility smears work. Obviously, voters want to make certain that their representatives actually know what's happening around them when they're in Washington.
But these attacks are a poor long-term strategy — especially if Ward wants to win over the snowbirds in Arizona. To do that, she should talk more about ideas than age.