Loyalty points: Ducey heads to White House for Trump acceptance speech

President Donald Trump, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, from left, at a June 2019 White House meeting where Ducey talked about the state’s occupational licensing recognition law. (File photo by Miranda Faulkner/Cronkite News)

WASHINGTON – Most Republicans watched President Donald Trump’s acceptance speech from their couches Thursday but Gov. Doug Ducey watched from the South Lawn of the White House.

The invitation for Ducey and his wife to be on hand for the speech is just the latest example of Ducey’s increasingly cozy relationship with the administration. Thursday’s visit was Ducey’s second trip to the White House this month and at least his third this year, while Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have made repeated trips to Arizona in recent months.

“We’ve had a tremendous relationship,” Trump said during a Ducey visit earlier this month, “You’ve done a fantastic job. We’re very proud of you.”

The feeling is apparently mutual.

“Gov. Ducey is honored to be invited to the White House for this historic occasion and to support President Trump,” Ducey spokesman Patrick Ptak said Thursday. “The governor is very grateful for the leadership of President Trump and Vice President Pence, especially their support of Arizona through this pandemic.”

One analyst said it just makes sense for the governor to have a good relationship with the president.

“It’s an honor to be invited to see history … I applaud the governor for doing that,” said Jason Rose, a Republican political consultant in Arizona. “No secret that this governor has enjoyed a good working relationship with the president, and especially with the vice president.”

But another noted that Trump needs Arizona, which is widely expected to be a battleground state in this fall’s elections, and that “photo ops with the governor is one way to get on the news at night.”

“I don’t think Trump has any particular care for Ducey, or for anyone really. It’s all about Donald Trump,” said Democratic political consultant, Rodd McLeod. “It’s not a favor to Doug Ducey. It’s all to help Donald Trump.”

The campaign should shift into high gear now that Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden have been formally picked as the Republican and Democratic nominees, respectively.

In a preview of Trump’s acceptance speech earlier Thursday, campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh said it would be tough on the “weak” Biden. The speech would touch on policy, address unrest in the country and a looming hurricane, said Murtaugh, and spell out how Trump will “fulfill the noble mission of American greatness.”

In Ducey’s latest visit to the White House, and in Pence’s latest visit to Arizona, the administration has heaped praise on the state for its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, which Ducey in turn attributed to a partnership between the administration and the state.

Arizona Democratic Party Chairwoman Felecia Rotellini attributed improvements in the state’s COVID-19 response to “local leaders who made the tough decisions that Gov. Ducey and Trump failed to make for months.”

McLeod echoed that, saying Ducey did not stand up to the administration on the coronavirus, and followed suit by not issuing a statewide mask mandate.

“When the COVID crisis hit, Doug Ducey proved that his first loyalty was to Donald Trump, rather than to Arizona,” he said. “Everything he has done has been to please Trump first and look after the health of Arizona second … not good.”

Rose was not as critical, noting that the president was complimenting Arizona for recovering from a COVID-19 hot spot to what Rose called “a better spot now.”

But he agreed with McLeod on one thing: Arizona will be important to Trump in November.

“If he (Trump) loses Arizona, he will likely lose the election. It’s possible that he could still win, but he knows he needs to keep Arizona in his column,” Rose said. “And so having the governor there reinforces that.”

News Reporter, Washington, D.C.

Mythili Gubbi is from Bangalore, India, and is pursuing a master’s degree after graduating in May 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and minors in digital audiences and political science. She has interned at the Arizona Legislature, KJZZ and ABC15 Arizona.