Washington Watch: Sinema ditches Democrats, but analysts say it’s no Senate earthquake, just a re-election gambit

by | Dec 9, 2022 | Stock Market

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema announced Friday that she’s leaving the Democratic Party to register as an independent. So what does that mean? The initial reaction from analysts is that the Arizona lawmaker’s move won’t shake up how the Senate functions that much, and that it has more to do with her possible 2024 campaign for re-election.

“At this point, we don’t expect Sinema’s defection to formally change the balance of power in the Senate,” said Benjamin Salisbury, director of research at Height Capital Markets, in a note. “Two independents, Senators Angus King [of Maine] and Bernie Sanders [of Vermont], formally caucus with Democrats,” Salisbury noted. “While Sinema declined to say which party she would caucus with, she did say that the change would not change how she votes, and she plans to keep her committee assignments, which is an indication to us that she will keep her affiliation with Democrats. In our view, the move is more about positioning herself for a tough 2024 reelection.” Sinema, who has been criticized frequently by progressive Democrats for moves such as opposing changes to the so-called carried-interest loophole, was expected to face a challenge from the left in a Democratic primary. But as an independent, she can avoid a primary and focus on the general election in her battleground state. Her calculation is that “the progressive Democratic ‘brand’ won’t help her to reelection in Arizona, but centrists and some from each party will,” Terry Haines, founder of Pangaea Policy, wrote in a note. “So there’s no percentage in doing anything but emphasizing her independence, and this is a high-profile, direct, and effective way of doing it.” H …

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