Will McCain Share Bennett’s Fate?

May 13th, 2010 at 10:54 pm | 38 Comments |

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A Republican senator runs for reelection in a mountain west state, recipe a traditional GOP stronghold. The incumbent, and in his mid-70s, see seeks reelection after two decades of service in the Senate. Boasting a solidly conservative voting history, but also a more practical, bipartisan streak, the GOP incumbent hopes his overall record will carry him to another victory.

But his primary campaign is troubled. Local Republican activists are angry with Washington, Congress especially. They are angry with the senator about TARP. They are angry with the senator about his recent bipartisan gestures. They are angry with the senator about lax border security.  They are just plain angry.

Their disaffection boils over on GOP primary day, delivering a shocking upset of the incumbent.  When the news breaks, the GOP convention attendees rejoice, hooting and hollering, waving “Don’t Tread On Me” flags and chanting “He’s gone! He’s gone!” Later that night, the elderly senator, virtually in tears, speaks with the media and calls the current American political climate “toxic.”

Is this the recent story of Robert Bennett in Utah – or the coming fate of John McCain in Arizona?

McCain is still in danger of ending up like the Utah senator: swiftly ejected from public office, scorned by the local Republicans that had supported him for so long. But he is also politically savvy enough have already begun working to prevent Arizona from becoming like Utah.

At the moment, McCain holds an uncertain lead. His favorability ratings have plummeted across the board. In one poll, McCain leads Hayworth by 26 points. In another, McCain leads Hayworth by 6 points. In still another poll, McCain leads his opponent by 11 points.  That is to say, it is difficult for McCain to know how well he is actually doing. Hayworth could surge at any time.

This is due to McCain’s grassroots troubles. In past years, GOP activists in Arizona, presented with no serious alternative, have begrudgingly supported McCain.  One poll illustrates this point: Hayworth leads McCain by 8 points among the self-described conservatives polled in Arizona. McCain, on the other hand, holds a whopping 45 points advantage among moderates. But who tends to vote in Republican primaries, conservatives or moderates?

Unlike Bennett, McCain will not be caught off guard. He is more than aware of his conservative dilemma and has been working aggressively to solve it.

First, McCain has refocused on Arizona. After years of eyeing the presidency and focusing mostly on Washington, McCain is now Mr. Arizona. Most notably, McCain has been vocal about border security, publicly supporting the much-maligned Arizona immigration law. In a non-election year, McCain may have conceivably criticized the law.

Secondly, McCain has become a born again party man. After spending years cultivating an image of independence and unpredictability (a.k.a. the McCain “maverick” cliché), the Arizona senator has publicly backtracked on the label. He has also touted endorsements from movement conservatives like Grover Norquist and Tea Party celebrities like Sarah Palin and Scott Brown.

Finally, McCain is winning the money race. He has secured millions while Hayworth has struggled to inch into the seven figures.

All this so far has helped McCain maintain a lead. But come August, McCain may be the next Bennett.

Recent Posts by Paul Craft

38 Comments so far ↓

  • balconesfault

    That is, in fact, the fate that John McCain currently deserves for the way he has acted since the Presidential election.

    Once a champion of working across the aisle, McCain clearly held a bitter grudge against Obama, and resolved to be part of the “block everything” slash and burn campaign initiated by party leadership. McCain could have taken a principled stand last summer and declared “Country First” and tried to be a leader in forging coalitions to craft legislation, and worked to marginalize the Tea Partiers, but he did not … and the leadership void he created was filled by others.

    There’s really no more point to a Senator John McCain, is there?

  • mpolito

    I’d vote for McCain. But look: if moderates want to elect moderates then they need to show up on primary day. They are part of the party, so they need to be just as motivated as the conservatives. Simple as that.

    Balconesfault- um, why exactly do you frequent this website? Have you ever been a Republican? Have you ever voted Republican? Because nothing you have ever said here seems to indicate that you want to help Republicans win. So why should your counsel be listened to?

  • ktward

    “The line that the liberal media is trying to write is that I’m in some kind of trouble, I’m not,” McCain told reporters today.

    Paul. You liberal media guy, you.

    I cannot reconcile today’s McCain with the Statesman of previous decades. Evidently, he can’t either.
    (Paul might call it ‘backtracking’. I call it encroaching dementia plus an embarrassing flare-up of panderitis.)

    I feel genuine pity for McCain, but he’s simply no longer up to the task. Yet, as the lesser of two evils, I hope he does defeat Hayworth– I don’t see Glassman beating Hayworth, even with an impressive Latino voter turnout.

  • drdredel

    mpolito, it seems to me that it is precisely those who have never voted Republican whose opinions you should be most interested in. What use is it to hear your choir sing your song, post after post? You already know what you think, and why you think it… why not consider what people who disagree with you think, and their reasons for those thoughts.

    As a side note, how someone voted in the past seems to have practically no relationship to how they might be voting now (if they’re a self conscious and observant individual). The Republicans of today have very little in common with a) each other, as they go scrambling to locate an identity and b) their predecessors.

  • sgath

    It’s called a “forum”, mpolito. I think the concept is to exchange ideas, and to learn. I come here for instance to see the pro corporate, businessman, economist side to Conservative politics. I want America to succeed, and for that to happen I think Conservatism in America has to stand for something again. This is one of the few sites I’ve found with a principled agenda. Why would you want a liberal to come here and read and learn? Not wanting that is foolish political hackery.

  • mlindroo

    Balconesfault laments:

    > Once a champion of working across the aisle, McCain clearly held a bitter grudge
    > against Obama, and resolved to be part of the “block everything” slash and burn
    > campaign initiated by party leadership

    Um, who is the “real” McCain anyway? It seems his previous “Maverick” persona was little more than a result of his bitter grudge against Bush and the TheoCon wing of the GOP! Apart from being a foreign policy hawk I don’t think he has any political principles at all.

    Nevertheless, Hayworth would be much less likely to keep Arizona in the GOP column since the state’s rapidly growing bloc of Hispanic voters never would consider voting for him.


  • balconesfault

    mpolito: alconesfault- um, why exactly do you frequent this website? Have you ever been a Republican?

    Yep – I grew up Republican. Cut my political teeth working on the campaigns for Nixon and Grover (for Texas Governor) back in 1972 (before I could vote). Was a Ford Republican in 1976. Supported Anderson in the 1980 Primaries, and then in the general election – that’s where my deviation from the Republican Party began, I guess, since I saw Anderson’s economics just more grounded in reality than Reagan’s. Was still happy when Reagan defeated Carter … but within 2-3 years as I saw Reagan flood the administration with anti-environmentalists and dispensationalists, and no true committment to his pledge to eliminate deficits, the door was hitting me in the ass.

    I still reject the cant of liberalism that people “have a right” to certain things – healthcare, welfare, subsidized housing. I’m in favor of providing those things for pragmatic reasons that have to do more with the economic health of the country than with “rights”.

    I’m very dedicated to environmental preservation, not for any mystical druidism etc, but because I believe we owe our children and grandchildren a legacy of parks and greenspaces and healthy rivers and groundwater free of contamination and perhaps even a little oil left in the ground for them to use. I think that big business is an integral partner in preserving these, although government actually enables big business to be able to internalize those goals if we have strong regulations and strong oversight, rather than lassiez faire “voluntary compliance”.

    Unfortunately, while my positions were quite possible for a Republican of 1974 to hold – in 2010 they’re almost impossible. I’d like a Republican Party that returns to a place where I can consider their candidates excellent options to the flawed Democratic candidates I often see nominated, rather than feeling I must hold my nose and vote D in those cases because the Republicans are embracing an ill-thought out and anti-scientific worldview that will only quickly return us to the problems that the Bush Administration brought to the country.

  • Churl

    The fact that McCain was “Once a champion of working across the aisle” is what got him into trouble with conservatives in the first place. He produced exactly nothing from his leftward forays that conservatives wanted.

    The “Maverick” label (remember that one?) got him lots of nice comments in the media, at least until there was some actual danger of him becoming President.

    However, it did nothing to enhance his standing with newly assertive conservatives, who have memories of his behavior over the last 10 years or so.

  • Stewardship

    Why is it that our elected leaders have no kahonies? If one ‘name’ would stand up and say “enough” and begin leading a center-right movement, I believe we’d see a wave of disaffected Republicans, moderates, and Republicans-cum-Independents rally to the cause. McCain’s problem is reflected in his poll numbers. That big margin among moderate/indies isn’t going to translate into primary votes. His behaviour since Nov. 08 has done nothing to motivate those voters to take fifteen minutes to vote on primary day.

    Pawlenty. Ditto. Crist doesn’t have the gravitas to lead the cause, and it’s hard to argue his move isn’t purely self-serving. Members of Congress–like Fred Upton, long a voice of moderation–are sounding more and more like John Birchers to appease the Tea Party mob. Lemmings over the brink.

    Balcone…see rep.org…might be up your alley.

  • bamboozer

    McCains part of the problem in American politics. Not because he’s not conservative enough, but simply because he’s been around for too long. As for conservatives: How long before one of your pundits declares Reagan a Moderate? And thus worthy of contempt.

  • ottovbvs

    ………Personally I believe McCain failed lamentably as a public figure both in his conduct of his presidential campaign when behaved recklessly (not least in picking Palin as his running mate) and in his conduct since……..as to his prospects I haven’t been following the race very closely but I have a feeling he’ll probably squeak through…….all these polls may show his lead down but the fact is he is still in the lead…….if Hayworth does win it makes this a possible Democratic pick up in November.

  • EdmundBurke

    The challengers are very different in the Arizona and Utah primaries.

    In Arizona, the challenger is a former D.C. insider with D.C. baggage. He is not a blank slate for the Tea Party.

    In Utah, as far as I can tell, the challengers are blank slates. They can run as anti-Washington candidates because they have never served in D.C.

    Hayworth poses an interesting challenge: can a former Washington insider, once famously corrupted by lobbying money, run as an anti-establishment, anti-D.C. candidate?

  • drdredel

    The reason McCain was a “Maverick” (or labeled as such) was that he was one of the only visible politicians that had his own combination of positions on various issues. Let me be clear… he wasn’t any kind of visionary; His ideas weren’t “his”, he simply didn’t parrot a dogma that was in lockstep with the party that he belongs to. This is considered “radical”. The intelligent voters found this amazingly refreshing and declared that they’d like someone like that in charge. I was one of them, even though for the most part (and especially recently with the introduction of such personalities as Palin) I find myself in wild amazement that anyone who is not medically retarded can take seriously the nonsense that is being shoveled by GOP.

    Sadly, by the time McCain was actually running for president, all those amalgamated points of view had been replaced by the same, tired, mindless subservience to the doctrine.

    The odds of someone who is armed with both facts and the capacity for rational thought to actually believe and agree with such a huge range of issues are infinitesimal, which necessarily means that he’s either a liar or a zombie.


  • medinnus

    “If moderates want to elect moderates then they need to show up on primary day”

    So true. And I do – often to vote Democratic or third party these days; the Tea Party version of Conservative is… lets be kind, and just call it “unrealistic”, at least if you go by the Maine GOP/TPM manifesto.

    As for McCain, I feel the same way about him that I do about Romney; you have no idea what you’re going to get, except perhaps as indicated by poll expediency.

  • McCain’s Battle in Arizona

    [...] have a post today on David Frum’s website, FrumForum, comparing John McCain’s potential fate in the [...]

  • Carney

    Oh, how I hope Hayworth trounces him in August. McCain so richly, desperately deserves the humiliation. At long, long last, the conservative base of the GOP has a real chance to repay him for his years of abusing our trust and support. Smugly taking our vote for granted while aggressively eye-thumbing us at every turn.

    McCain – Feingold, which bans political speech criticizing Members of Congress in election time (!!), but exempts the media’s usual massive in-kind contribution to the Left.

    Ostentatiously bucking the Bush tax cuts, currying favor with the adoring liberal media, trashing religious and immigration conservatives to be even more fashionable.

    McCain – Kennedy, pushing an illegal alien amnesty. How obnoxious and indefensible was this. After the failure of the 1986 amnesty, ignorance was no longer an excuse, so this bill seemingly calculated to flood and overwhelm the US with more waves of illegal aliens. A transparently insincere promise to beef of border security as a prerequisite of the bill, treated like the vegetables to be picked at before rushing on to the dessert of the amnesty, failed to fool us, to his fury.

    And now, with Cindy and Meghan, we see how sincere his social conservatism has been too.

  • ottovbvs

    Carney // May 14, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    “Oh, how I hope Hayworth trounces him in August. McCain so richly, desperately deserves the humiliation.”

    ……..I hope you get your wish but you do seem rather consumed by a hatred for the guy that goes way beyond politics

  • AMurphy

    Or lets see, Hayworth who voted for Medicare Part D in 2004 when McCain voted against it. Ove ten years, Medicare Part D will add $1.2 trillion dollars to the budget deficit because it was financed by government debt, not by taxes increases or budget cuts to finance it. Former U.S. Comptroller General David Walker has called “the most fiscally irresponsible piece of legislation since the 1960s.”

    Yep, Hayworth is quite the conservative.

  • ottovbvs

    AMurphy // May 14, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    ” Yep, Hayworth is quite the conservative.”

    …..Now, now don’t confuse old Carney with facts………on second thoughts forget it facts aren’t very important to him when they conflict with his emotions

  • Smarg

    Bye bye, McCain.

  • Carney

    AMurphy, excellent point on Part D, I have to admit.

    In the context of the time, the vote might be defended as a Frum-like strategy to put the issue of prescription drugs to rest with the most conservative and free-market approach that could possibly pass both houses, before the Left stepped in with an even even worse bill.

    Still, no question that it is a massive expansion of the welfare state and will no doubt be a big burden in years ahead. Hayworth deserves to be sharply questioned about it, and McCain is entitled to boast of his opposition (but should still explain what, if anything, his alternative would have been).

  • ottovbvs

    Carney // May 14, 2010 at 12:47 pm

    AMurphy, excellent point on Part D, I have to admit.

    “In the context of the time, the vote might be defended as a Frum-like strategy to put the issue of prescription drugs to rest with the most conservative and free-market approach that could possibly pass both houses, before the Left stepped in with an even even worse bill.”

    …… the Democrats have just passed a fully funded health bill…….but as I said facts aren’t too important for Carney

  • Carney

    Come on, otto. “Fully funded”? That alone exposes you as a bad-faith troll, just as uninterested in the facts as anyone you accuse.

    Their claim that it would pay for itself was based on promises of draconian spending cuts which have been routinely put off in the past, double-counting various revenue streams, and more shell games. Nobody outside the White House and its Capitol Hill and astroturf allies took these claims seriously.

  • CAPryde

    “Fully funded” is definitely a whopper, but having any funding at all makes it a heck of a lot more responsible than what the Republicans gave us. That plus putting the war funding into the budget, rather than hiding it behind “special appropriations,” has just about convinced me that Democrats are the real fiscal conservatives in DC at the moment, and I don’t make that statement lightly, given their push for increased social services and entitlement spending.

  • ottovbvs

    Carney // May 14, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    “Come on, otto. “Fully funded”? That alone exposes you as a bad-faith troll, just as uninterested in the facts as anyone you accuse.”

    ……According to the CBO it is…….now scream all you like about the CBO being stuffed with Jews, Palestinians and Obama lovers without birth certificates…… the fact is they are the official non partisan scoring agency and they say it’s funded buddy……..I have the CBO supporting my take…..who have you got?

  • easton

    one critical difference I have not seen anyone mention is that Bennett was ousted at the pre-primary convention, who knows how he would have fared if it had been a truly open primary. I am pretty positive McCain will win in the primary and the general, Hayworth is just a gibbon.

    As to health care, the US pays 16% of its GDP on Health care at worst outcomes the UHC 9% Japan. We simply could not stay on the course we were on, but hopefully this is just a first step towards getting away from employer based health care toward employee based payroll tax funded health care choices.

  • Slide

    Poor, sad McCain. He is embarrassing and degrading himself. It is actually painful to watch. And to think, I once thought of him as someone I could vote for.

  • Carney

    otto, CBO is required by law to take the assumptions and promises in a plan it is given at face value, no matter how transparently implausible or insincere. Garbage in, garbage out. For all your deafening self-praise, you are easily suckered by the oldest, hoariest Washington tricks.

  • gmckee1985

    McCain is a pandering loser who gave his party an embarassing defeat due to his populist pandering.
    Too bad his only competition is Hayworth, otherwise he’d lose.

    Unforunately, he’ll probably win pretty easily, and we’ll be stuck with his inconsistent mavericking for 6 more years.

  • gmckee1985

    That said, I’ll take McCain over Hayworth. I think the media is overplaying how close the race is.

    McCain may be hard to figure out, but at least he’s sane, and a safe bet in a general election.

    Hayworth is probably more in line with my views, but I don’t trust him. Eventually he’ll say something very stupid.

  • anniemargret

    I supported McCain when I was an Independent. But the day he said he was ‘proud’ to have Sarah Palin as a running mate as the day I realized he was a crass and opportunistic politician. That he put her second in line to the Presidency was the nail in the coffin for me.

    And I hated his disingenuous about torture – especially coming from a man who was tortured himself. He is not principled.

  • ottovbvs

    Carney // May 14, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    “otto, CBO is required by law to take the assumptions and promises in a plan it is given at face value, no matter how transparently implausible or insincere. Garbage in, garbage out. For all your deafening self-praise, you are easily suckered by the oldest, hoariest Washington tricks.”

    ……..Carney…….all budgets are based on assumptions……it’s the way that businesses work…….it’s not a pefect process but it’s the only one we’ve got and for better or worse the CBO is the NON PARTISAN body of congress charged with scoring the budget……they did and they said it was funded…… so instead of making a load of totally unsubstantiated assertions which are basically worthless Republican talking points which are of no interest or value to anyone, I ask you again who have you got that say’s it’s unfunded

  • ottovbvs

    gmckee1985 // May 14, 2010 at 3:26 pm
    gmckee1985 // May 14, 2010 at 3:50 pm

    ……so according to a conservative Republican, both Republican candidates are liars, panderers and general wankers…..great

  • TerryF98

    Looks like the times are a changing.

    “Americans want Democrats to control Congress after this fall’s elections, a shift from April, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll released Saturday. But the margin is thin and there’s a flashing yellow light for incumbents of both parties: Only about a third want their own lawmakers re-elected.

    The tenuous 45 percent to 40 percent preference for a Democratic Congress reverses the finding a month ago on the same question: 44 percent for Republicans and 41 percent for Democrats. The new readout came as the economy continued showing signs of improvement and the tumultuous battle over the health care law that President Barack Obama finally signed in March faded into the background.

    “To the extent that Democrats can focus on job creation rather than health care, they tend to do better,” said Jack Pitney, a political scientist at California’s Claremont McKenna College.

    A party of “Hell No” is losing ground.

    Compared with the last AP-GfK poll in April, the survey showed Republicans losing some support among married women, a key component of many GOP victories. Democrats picked up ground among young and rural voters.

    “I’m a new Democrat,” said Harley Smithson, 51, of Baltimore, who said he had recently switched from the GOP. “I want to be with a party that’s for something instead of against everything.”

  • Rabiner

    I can at least respect Bennett for attempting to pass a bi-partisan health care bill and not reversing his entire political record to win a primary. McCain has been a disgrace in his change of stances from immigration reform to even not considering himself a maverick.

  • Slide

    TerryF98 I saw that poll too and felt a glimmer of hope that November won’t be quite as bad as all the pundits are gleefully prognosticating. The economy, by all measures, seems to be bouncing back a lot stronger than many expected. Job creation, while a lagging indicator, has turned around and we will see job creation every month from now to the election. Substantial job creation. It has been calculated that if the pace of the first four months of this year continues, Obama will have created more jobs in one year than the Bush Administration had created in eight years. Isn’t that amazing?


    The stimulus will be seen as a success. TARP might actually turn a profit. GM is again in the black due to the government’s intervention. HCR will not be seen as the socialized death panel abomination that it has been demonized as by the right as people realize little will be changed with their coverage. We will get some very popular financial reform to control banks which are universally hated by the American public. And the Gulf spill and its aftermath will dominate headlines for months and that can’t help the “drill baby drill” crowd or those that continue to say that we don’t need any government regulations and/or oversight. And what will the Pubs have to offer? Just say no?

    Oh, the Dems will still lose seats as historically always happens but I do think things are going to look a lot brighter in November than they do right now for the prospect of limiting those loses.

  • tequilamockingbird

    Surely Arizonans know that this pandering old fool is flipflopping on everything he once professed — don’t they?

  • tequilamockingbird

    On the other hand, Hayworth looks as though he could be even worse — come on, Democrats!