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Trump may not endorse any candidate in Arizona race for Senate seat

President Donald Trump speaks in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, Feb. 12, 2018, during a meeting with state and local officials about infrastructure. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

PHOENIX — President Donald Trump may not publicly endorse any candidate in the Arizona race for outgoing Sen. Jeff Flake’s seat in a move that could damage some hopes.

The New York Times said one candidate, Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) was given assurances the president would not endorse either Dr. Kelli Ward or former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, her two main rivals in the August primary.

A presidential endorsement would have been a huge boost to Ward or Arpaio, who trailed McSally in a January poll.

McSally led with about 31 percent of 500 respondents saying they supported the fighter pilot, while Arpaio and Ward garnered 22 percent and 19 percent, essentially a statistical even split.

Related: Early poll puts McSally ahead of Ward, Arpaio

Arpaio and Ward, who have been staunch supporters of Trump, risk splitting up the president’s base in Arizona while McSally claims more moderate Republicans.

However, McSally has looked to build her rapport with Trump’s backers in recent weeks.

She has said that young immigrants shouldn’t be shielded from deportation unless Democrats agree to build Trump’s massive border wall and has not condemned the president for using foul language when describing other nations.

“I speak a little salty behind closed doors at times as well, so I’m not going to throw the first stone on using any language,” McSally said last month. She added, “You better believe I will keep working with President Trump.”

She has voted with the Republican president nearly 97 percent of the time.

Even if he doesn’t endorse them, Trump has spoken positively of both Ward and Arpaio in the past.

He said Ward entering the race was a good idea when Flake was still expected to run for re-election.

Trump said Arpaio “kept Arizona safe” when he pardoned him in August.

“Throughout his time as sheriff, Arpaio continued his life’s work of protecting the public from the scourges of crime and illegal immigration,” a statement from the White House said. “Arpaio is now 85 years old, and after more than 50 years of admirable service to our nation, he is worthy candidate for a presidential pardon.”

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