On Tuesday, NBC’s Today show was giddy with excitement over Democratic Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema winning the extremely close Senate race in Arizona against Republican Congresswoman Martha McSally. The word “wow” was tossed out three times during a two-minute report on the straggling midterm election result, along with hopes that the usually red state was turning “purple.”
After announcing Sinema’s victory, co-host Hoda Kotb turned to White House Correspondent Kristen Welker and declared: “Wow, this is one of those races that turned out to be a really big deal, didn’t it?” Welker gushed: “This is a wow. This is the first time that a Democrat will have won a Senate seat in Arizona since 1976. And Kyrsten Sinema becomes the first woman ever to serve as senator in Arizona, so it’s a very big deal.”
Of course Arizona would have been sending a woman to Senate no matter which candidate won.
While touting Sinema’s biography as a “three-term congresswoman,” “triathlete,” and “openly bisexual,” Welker claimed that the liberal Democrat’s “strategy was to run as a moderate.” Conveniently missing from the segment was any mention of Sinema’s past radical left-wing activism. In 2011, speaking at the leftist Netroots Nation convention, Sinema referred to her state as the “meth lab of democracy” because of its conservative politics.
“The other aspect of this which makes this such a wow,” Welker continued, was “that this was a seat held by Jeff Flake, a Republican.” After again trying to boost Sinema’s credentials as a “moderate,” the reporter proclaimed: “The big picture for Democrats, they see this as a very big victory. It’s allowed them to narrow the lead that Republicans have in the Senate...”
In reality, Republicans flipped three Democratic Senate seats in the midterms, with a likely forth in Florida. In contrast, Democrats only flipped two Republican seats in Arizona and Nevada. If the Florida race and the Mississippi Senate runoff are both decided in Republicans’ favor, as anticipated, the GOP will have an expanded 53-47 majority.
Wrapping up the Today show discussion, co-host Savannah Guthrie, an Arizona native, hyped: “And Democrats have been wanting to make Arizona not a red state, but a purple state, for a long time.” Welker eagerly agreed: “That’s right, that’s right.”
Unlike the NBC morning show, ABC’s Good Morning America and CBS This Morning each only devoted seconds-long news briefs to the outcome of the Arizona Senate race on Tuesday, with both noting how close the contest was.
Here is a full transcript of Welker’s November 13 report on the Today show:
7:08 AM ET
HODA KOTB: Also this morning, we have new results one week after the midterm elections. Democrat Kyrsten Sinema has been declared the winner in Arizona’s closely watched Senate race. NBC White House Correspondent Kristen Welker is in studio with us, which is awesome.
KRISTEN WELKER: Great to see you both, it’s fantastic to be here.
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Sinema Wins Arizona Senate Race; State’s First Democrat Elected to the Senate in 30 Years]
KOTB: Wow, this is one of those races that turned out to be a really big deal, didn't it?
WELKER: This is a wow.
WELKER: This is the first time that a Democrat will have won a Senate seat in Arizona since 1976. And Kyrsten Sinema becomes the first woman ever to serve as senator in Arizona, so it’s a very big deal.
So who is she? She’s a three-term congresswoman. She is a triathlete. I interviewed her, she told me that she sometimes gets up at 3:00 a.m. in the morning to run. She’s also openly bisexual. And her strategy was to run as a moderate. Take a listen to what she had to say overnight.
KRYSTEN SINEMA: Arizonans had a choice between two very different ways forward. One focused on fear and party politics, and one focused on Arizona and the issues that matter to everyday families.
WELKER: The other aspect of this which makes this such a wow, Hoda and Savannah, is that this was a seat held by Jeff Flake, a Republican, as you said. And so, it was an uphill climb for a Democrat, there’s no doubt about that.
And I asked her, I said, “How are you going to win a seat in a state that Trump won? And he’s been out her campaigning, by the way, for your challenger, Martha McSally.” He called her a “radical Democrat” out on the campaign trail. And she said, “Look, I’m going to point to my voting record.” She actually voted with Trump’s policies more than 60% of the time. And she stayed on message, she talked about health care, health care, health care.
The big picture for Democrats, they see this as a very big victory. It’s allowed them to narrow the lead that Republicans have in the Senate, which right now stands at 51 to 47, but there are still two races. Florida’s obviously a recount and Mississippi’s going to a runoff.
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: And Democrats have been wanting to make Arizona not a red state, but a purple state, for a long time.
WELKER: That’s right, that’s right.
GUTHRIE: Democrats haven’t sent a U.S. senator from Arizona since, I think, the late ’90s.
GUTHRIE: So that’s a little Arizona trivia from the Arizona local right there. Kristen, thank you.
WELKER: Thank you.