Trump told Blake Masters he couldn't defeat Kari Lake in an Arizona Senate primary, per the Times.
Masters, the 2022 GOP Senate nominee who lost to Mark Kelly, is poised to jump into the 2024 race.
But Lake, a star among conservatives, is also considering entering the race, per the Times.
In August 2022, Blake Masters won a competitive Republican Senate primary in Arizona, fueled by an endorsement from former President Donald Trump.
At the same time, former television journalist Kari Lake — another Trump favorite — won the GOP gubernatorial primary.
Both candidates were more reflective of the new and Trumpier Arizona Republican Party, which had been moving away from the center-right ideology of figures like former Gov. Doug Ducey and the late Sen. John McCain. Many conservatives finally felt that they had winning candidates that could rally base voters and reverse recent Democratic gains in the state.
But Masters was running against Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly, a strong candidate whose message of political moderation won over voters across the state, especially in sprawling and populous Maricopa County. Kelly defeated Masters 51.4%-46.5% statewide, a key hold for the Democrats as the win helped them maintain control of the Senate.
Meanwhile, Lake — a conservative star who had been bandied about as a potential Trump vice presidential running mate during her campaign last fall — lost to Democrat Katie Hobbs in a much closer race (49.7%-50.3%).
And as next year's Arizona Senate race heats up, with The Wall Street Journal reporting that Masters is planning to enter the race, Trump is once again looking to make his mark.
The former president reportedly told Masters he didn't think the ex-candidate could defeat Lake in a Senate primary next year, according to The New York Times.
According to the Times, Lake is eyeing an October entry into the Republican Senate primary.
An individual with knowledge of the situation told the Times that Trump didn't completely shut the door on backing Masters in the Senate primary and also suggested that Lake may not actually jump into the race.
Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung told the Times that he wouldn't remark on private talks "that the president may or may not have had."
Insider reached out to Masters for comment.
Last week, Insider's Bryan Metzger reported that GOP Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, who backed Masters last year, had not spoken with his former endorsee about the 2024 Senate race. Hawley is also up for reelection next year.
"I thought he was a great candidate. I thought he worked really hard," Hawley said of Masters. "I wish he were here serving."
GOP Sen. JD Vance of Ohio, who was also a Masters supporter last year, told Insider that the Arizona Republican is a "great guy that has a great future in the party."
"Let's see what he actually wants to do first, and I'll make decisions about who I'm endorsing once candidates actually enter the race," he said.
Arizona could host one of the most unsual Senate races in the country next year.
Kyrsten Sinema, who was elected to the Senate as a Democrat in 2018, became an independent last December, but has generally not shifted in her voting record. Sinema has not yet announced if she'll seek reelection, but polls indicate that she would struggle against Rep. Ruben Gallego, the current Democratic Senate frontrunner, in the general election.
Meanwhile, a Lake candidacy would energize Trump conservatives in the state, but her gubernatorial loss in Maricopa County — which contains roughly 60% of the state's population — would be a red flag for many Republicans looking for a candidate with stronger suburban appeal.
Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb, who has pushed for stronger security measures at the US-Mexico border, is the only major Republican in the race.
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