Former U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick jumped into the crowded race for Martha McSally’s House seat on Friday, and about two steps out of the gate fell flat on her face.

Kirkpatrick’s official announcement hammered away at McSally’s voting record, which has backed President Trump’s policies 97.4 percent of the time. (For the record, 102 of the 240 GOP House members have backed Trump 100 percent, and McSally is among 59 members at 97.4 percent. Also note that in 2014, Kirkpatrick voted with her party 88 percent of time, and 84 percent in 2013.)

Taking shots at McSally’s voting record fed into Kirkpatrick’s big reveal: “On a recently released secret recording of McSally speaking to a bankers group earlier this year, she bragged of her influence over Trump on policy and exclaimed, ‘I’m like his twin sister!’”

Stunning.

Because it’s so misleading.

Kirkpatrick is trying to score points by tying her opponent to an unpopular president. Expect every Democrat to use the same strategy next year. But it won’t work here, at least not with that line.

To say the “twin sister” reference was taken out of context is a gross understatement. To call it a calculated lie on the part of Kirkpatrick’s campaign team would pretty much hit the mark.

McSally did use the line to a group of bankers in a secretly recorded speech about six weeks ago. But here’s the entire comment, in context, as first reported by Jim Nintzel of The Tucson Weekly:

“The environment has changed and some of it changed on January 20. There’s just an element out there that’s just, like, so against the president. Like they just can’t see straight. And all of a sudden on January 20, I’m like his twin sister to them. And I’m, like, responsible for everything he does, and tweets and says. And they want me to be spending my time as a pundit. ‘I disagree with that. I agree with this.’ I have a job in the legislature!”

McSally never referred to herself as Trump’s “twin sister,” but that didn’t stop Kirkpatrick from twisting the congresswoman’s words and having the audacity to use them in her campaign kick-off.

I contacted Kirkpatrick’s campaign last week to ask why.

“Can you address why Ms. Kirkpatrick is clearly pulling Rep. McSally’s secretly recorded statement out of context with this ‘twin sister’ remark?” I wrote to Rodd McLeod, who sent out the announcement. “She was not aligning herself with President Trump, as Ms. Kirkpatrick contends in this release. Will there be a clarification?”

McLeod responded: “When you listen to the full recording, her intent is actually very unclear,” he wrote. (Then why would he feel comfortable making the assumption?)

“She spends much more time in the recording bragging about her ability to influence President Trump. Plus, when you look at her voting record, she has made no effort to distance herself from Trump (97%+). Our main point is that despite being in a district that Hillary Clinton won by a significant margin, Representative McSally has aligned herself closely with Trump in the only way that matters: by voting with him nearly every time she has been given a chance. If she votes with Trump nearly 100% of the time, and she brags about her ability to influence him, this is a very valid criticism.”

It’s also very poor deflection, because McLeod never addressed why they intentionally cast McSally’s words in a false light. We went back and forth but never got anywhere. Suffice it to say McLeod, who’s based in the Phoenix area, appeared unaware that McSally’s secretly recorded speech had been heavily covered south of Maricopa County. We all know the context.

We’re getting enough lies and misleading statements out of the White House these days. We don’t need more from Ann Kirkpatrick. Let’s hope she’s a bit more above-board as her campaign progresses.

Bad timing

Talking about stepping in it, meet Kelli Ward.

She’s a former state senator who lost to U.S. Sen. John McCain in last year’s GOP primary. She’s currently running against U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake.

In a radio interview in Indiana on Thursday, Ward jumped the gun when talking about McCain’s cancer diagnosis, which was announced less than 24 hours earlier.

“I hope Sen. McCain is going to look long and hard at this, that his family and his advisers are going to look at this, and they’re going to advise him to step away as quickly as possible, so that the business of the country and the business of Arizona being represented at the federal level can move forward.”

When asked if she’d be a good choice as appointee, Ward said yes. With gusto.

“Well, you know, I certainly hope so,” she told the interviewer. “Because, you know, I have a proven track record from years in the state Senate of being extremely effective and of listening to the voice of the people that I represent.”

The internet erupted and Kelli Ward was in the middle of it.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia wasted no words in his Twitter rebuke: “In all the ways I measure good Senate colleagues (honor, class, integrity) Kelli Ward falls short. People like her aren’t welcome in the US Senate.”

Ward struck back on Facebook at what she called “fake news about my reaction to Senator McCain’s brain cancer.”

Only it wasn’t fake; she just didn’t like it.

She retooled her earlier comments: “When the time comes that Senator McCain can no longer perform his duties in the Senate at full capacity, he owes it to the people of Arizona to step aside.”

Ward was premature, overly ambitious and really close to crass, but I’ll make two points in her favor. First, she didn’t raise the question of being an appointee for McCain’s job, the radio interviewer did. Second, she said, “The medical reality of his diagnosis is grim.” And she’s right.

But let’s allow him to make the call on if, or when, to step aside.

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