John McCain censured by Arizona GOP. Too liberal for his state?

Arizona GOP leaders adopted a resolution on Saturday saying that unless his attitude changes, the state party won’t work or campaign for Sen. John McCain. 'If anything, it fires me up' to run again, he said Monday.

Michael Bonfigli / The Christian Science Monitor / File
Senator John McCain, seen here at a 2011 Monitor Breakfast event in Washington, DC, has been censured by Arizona GOP leaders. On Saturday, they adopted a resolution saying that unless his attitude changes, the state party won’t work or campaign for him.

Is John McCain too liberal for Arizona? Yes, that question may sound a bit weird, given that he’s the state’s senior Republican and has won reelection as a senator four times. But the 2008 GOP presidential nominee has gotten crosswise with the Arizona Republican Party, apparently. On Saturday, a party meeting in Tempe censured Senator McCain for working too closely with Democrats on immigration and the federal budget, among things.

McCain “has abandoned our values and has been eerily silent against Liberals, yet publicly reprimands Conservatives in his own Party,” read a resolution adopted by party leaders on a voice vote.

McCain’s caustic criticism of Sen. Ted Cruz (R) of Texas and other tea party conservatives whose push to defund Obamacare led to last year’s government shutdown was another strike against him, in the eyes of Arizona critics. The resolution says that unless his attitude changes, the state party won’t work or campaign for McCain.

“Our complaint is that John McCain is always working on the other side of the aisle and he never lands on our side of the aisle,” said Timothy Schwartz, an Arizona GOP district chairman, on MSNBC’s “Hardball” Monday night.

What’s going on here? It’s possible state conservatives are trying to wave McCain off a try for a sixth term in 2016. He hasn’t yet said whether he’s going to run for reelection.

But McCain handily defeated a conservative primary challenger, former Rep. J.D. Hayworth, in 2010, so grumblings from that side of the party may not bother him. And anybody who’s met the man can figure out that poking him just might persuade him to run again out of irritation.

“If anything, it fires me up,” McCain said on Monday.

McCain said he’s got polling showing he’s an overwhelming favorite in Arizona. And he may be right, not just because of his long service, but because Arizona is not as conservative a state as some pundits might realize.

Sure, Arizona has Joe Arpaio, the self-described “Toughest Sheriff in America.” (He’s just put some prisoners on a bread and water diet for desecrating the American flag.) It has GOP Gov. Jan Brewer, who got some attention for maybe waving her finger in President Obama’s face during his visit to Arizona in 2012.

In 2012, GOP candidate Mitt Romney handily defeated Mr. Obama in Arizona, 53 to 44 percent.

But last year, Gallup rated the relative conservative-liberal balance in all 50 states, by asking residents how they would describe their own political values. And Arizona came out ... almost exactly in the middle.

That’s right. Arizona is not in America’s top 10 conservative states, according to Gallup. It is not even in the top 20. It is just a tick more red state than Colorado and Virginia, both of which are former red states trending purpler with each passing electoral cycle.

Did we mention that almost 30 percent of Arizona's population is Hispanic? That’s not a GOP-leaning demographic group to put it mildly.

Perhaps that is why Arizona is one of only six Republican-controlled states to agree to expand Medicaid, as called for in the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare.

McCain is no Democrat’s idea of a liberal. He fought against passage of Obamacare and is an enthusiastic voice pushing a muscular, interventionist US foreign policy around the world.

But it’s likely he’s more in tune with Arizona voters than his party leadership.

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