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Can McCain Win
One Last Senate Race?

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Kelli Ward, John McCain and Ann Kirkpatrick.
Image of Kelli Ward by Gage Skidmore and used under the terms of a Creative Commons license.
John McCain Is Seeking A Sixth Term — Which If Completed Will Make Him The Longest Serving Senator From Arizona After Only Carl Hayden — But He First Must Get Past Kelli Ward and Ann Kirkpatrick

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By Karen Weil
Modern Times Magazine

Aug. 19, 2016 — John McCain has created and matured through several political incarnations.

When he arrived on the political scene in the early 1980s, he was the ‘POW-turned-Congressman.’

He became the “reasonable” Republican U.S. senator before assuming the “maverick” label after his reasonable-ness earned him scorn during the Savings and Loan scandals. During this political era, he earned the goodwill of more than a few Democrats and liberals. He even hosted Saturday Night Live.

His most recent incarnation was as former presidential candidate and elder statesman.

On Aug. 30, he will take the next step towards a sixth term in the U.S. Senate when the state’s voters go to the polls for the primary election.

His closest GOP competitor, Kelli Ward, is trailing him in the polls. Even as his popularity rating drops, McCain would seemingly be a shoo-in not only to win the primary, but also in November.

In 2010, even after a very tough primary against tea party candidate J.D. Hayworth, McCain won the general election with 58 percent of the vote. In 2004, he won with 76 percent.

However, according to the USA Today, McCain told an audience during a fundraiser earlier this year that Donald Trump’s comments about immigrants have so angered Arizona’s growing and increasingly powerful Hispanic community that McCain is now “in the race of my life.”

Anyone who has paid even nominal attention to politics – something almost impossible in this social media age — may have noticed that 2016 is different.

McCain is running in a party whose presidential nominee is, to say the least, unconventional —  and not necessarily in a good way, if recent polls showing Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton with a growing lead in normally GOP-strong states are any indication.

McCain — who Trump personally insulted last year by saying he likes people “who don’t get captured” — has said that he supports the Republican nominee for president, without really saying Trump’s name, and some pundits believe any association with the fiery presidential hopeful could hurt him with Arizona voters in November.

In general, McCain’s profile this election news cycle has been a lower one, other than his hammering the Obama administration for “[turning] a blind eye toward the threats facing our nation, allowing ISIS to metastasize throughout the Middle East,” a spokesperson said recently.

As of Aug. 11, according to a Data Orbital LLC statewide poll, a McCain leads Ward 50 percent to 29 percent, with 17 percent undecided.

Ward, a Lake Havasu physician and former state senator, made news in 2014 for convening with Arizona Department of Environmental Quality to address “chemtrails,” a topic of more than a few conspiracy theories. (Ward said she was merely responding to her constituents’ concerns.)

Stephen Sebastian, communications director for Ward, said no new polls have been released “because the GOP establishment doesn’t want them to come out.” Some polls show 25 percent of voters still undecided, “so we’re within the striking distance,” he added.

Sebastian said it’s entertaining for McCain “to act like we’re not a serious challenger, but then why [has] he spent $3 million in attack ads, between his campaign and a PAC, against her?”
Internal polls show McCain with 43-47 percent support, “and that’s pretty embarrassing for a 34-year-senate veteran,” Sebastian said.

McCain’s spokesperson, Lorna Romero, declined to answer whether McCain would debate Ward, her candidacy or his standing in the polls.

Instead, Romero touted the senator’s record as “unmatched,” and that includes his 2014 legislation to improve the Veterans’ Administration in terms of medical care choice and holding VA employees accountable for wrongdoing.

“He is working hard to earn the vote of Arizonans,” Romero said. “His campaign has built the strongest field operation in the state, with hundreds of interns and volunteers traveling across Arizona, talking to over 2 million voters.”

Romero also said McCain’s “Unidos con McCain” — the campaign's Hispanic Coalition launched in October — has hosted events across the state including meet and greets and town halls. Romero stressed that McCain will continue to fight for policies important to the Hispanic community “such as bolstering the economy, protecting small businesses, ensuring all children have access to a quality education and protecting our nation from terror threats.”
Romero, when asked, would not say whether McCain fully supported Trump or would be willing to work with Hillary Clinton were she elected.

As part of her campaign, Ward has been asking voters if they feel safer after McCain’s 34 years in office. Ward accuses McCain — along with President Obama and Hillary Clinton — as one of the prime creators of ISIS.

“We don’t think Sen. McCain being chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee is a good thing,” given his record of wanting the U.S. to get involved in so many conflicts, Sebastian said.

He added that McCain can be tied to Hillary Clinton and her “reckless foreign policy” in the Middle East, including the Arab Spring.

Ward has stayed out of the presidential primary process, but does support Trump. However, Sebastian said while she does have major disagreements with him, she’s right there with him on “fixing the border.”

Sebastian said the Affordable Care Act first motivated Ward in politics now immigration is the No. 1 policy for Arizona Republicans.

Even if he gets by Ward in the primary election cycle, in the general election, McCain will face a Democratic opponent who might be tougher than previously thought: U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick. In June, a PPP poll showed the battle within the margin of error. More recent polling show McCain with a slight lead.

Kirkpatrick, who represents the state’s 1st District, first came to office in 2009. She lost the 2010 election and then won the seat back in 2012 a squeaker election.

An attorney who was born and raised on the White Mountain Apache Reservation in McNary, Kirkpatrick has played up her small-town roots in ads.

Kirkpatrick – who did not respond repeated requests for comment from Modern Times Magazine — has also stressed working with Republicans in Congress on issues like mining legislation.

In one ad she says, “I respect John McCain’s service to our nation — I just believe our state’s changing. Arizonans should have a real choice who they send to the United States Senate.”

Kirkpatrick describes herself as a strong gun rights advocate in favor of background checks. On immigration, she talks about fixing a “broken system,” but also supports the DREAM Act.

In general, Kirkpatrick’s platform seems to tout a moderate Democratic outlook on issues ranging from fiscal responsibility to protecting the state’s natural resources. She is on record as supporting Clinton in the presidential election.
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