Why John McCain isn't in more trouble for Arizona Senate primary
Sen. John McCain's record as an immigration reformer doesn't seem to match a state that's taking a hardline stance on illegal immigration. But the senator is managing to fend off a challenge from his right ahead of Tuesday's GOP Senate primary in Arizona.
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It probably helps McCain that Arizona's Republican Gov. Jan Brewer, who is riding a wave of popularity for her tough stance on illegal immigration, has been campaigning alongside him. But there's also another big factor in McCain's favor: money. His campaign has spent about $20 million, compared with Hayworth’s roughly $2.5 million.Skip to next paragraph
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“Money isn’t everything but it’s a lot,” says Tim Hagle, a political scientist at the University of Iowa. “Hayworth can point out weaknesses in McCain’s record, but when you’ve got that much of a war chest behind you, the incumbent in this case can spend a lot of money countering those ads. And then the challenger really doesn’t have that ability to come back.”
Throughout a fierce campaign, Hayworth has attacked what he says are inconsistencies in McCain’s record, and the senator has fought back by linking his opponent to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and pounding on Hayworth for his role in an infomercial that pitched free money in government grants after he was voted out of office in 2006.
The money McCain has poured into the campaign makes it difficult for Hayworth to compete, say supporters like Republican state Sen. Russell Pearce, who has led Arizona’s efforts to clamp down on illegal immigration.
“I’m disappointed that he’s not in the lead,” Mr. Pearce says of Hayworth. “He’s still in striking distance, and all we can do is hope and pray…. We need change, and you can’t have change until you change Washington, D.C.”
The energetic tea party crowd taking in Hayworth’s message Aug. 15 at a private ranch in Hereford, Ariz. – within sight of the border wall – made it clear they stand behind him.
Still, Hayworth's attempt to capitalize on any lingering disenchantment with McCain just won't be enough to persuade a significant number of primary voters, predicts Professor Hagle.
“Despite his maverick reputation on some issues, McCain in general is still a fairly conservative guy,” he says. “So a lot of folks in the Republican Party that like Hayworth are still not willing to abandon McCain. That’s the difficulty Hayworth faces.”
That seemed to be the case at a McCain campaign event Wednesday in Green Valley south of Tucson, where the senator spoke to a group of blue-collar workers. The senator sounded as if he had already won a fifth term when he told his audience that if lawmakers in Washington act quickly on “Obamacare,” President Obama’s health care reform, “We could cancel out a lot of it.”
Worker Todd Scoggin liked what he heard from McCain, especially his views on illegal immigration and his call to put National Guard troops on the border.
“I agree with his comments that yes, we are all immigrants from one time or another, but let’s do it legally.”