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McCain, A Rock, And A Hard Place

[ Posted Tuesday, August 30th, 2016 – 16:54 PDT ]

Senator John McCain is, as I type this, awaiting the results of today's Arizona primary election. The outcome will likely be that he will once again obtain the Republican Party's nomination for his Senate seat. But the results will probably be a lot closer than any of McCain's other primary races, because he is facing a Tea Party (or perhaps "Trumpesque") challenger who actually has a chance to unseat McCain. Discontent with McCain (and Establishment Republicans in general) from the Republican base voters is palpable -- so much so that McCain has been forced to support Donald Trump's campaign, even after Trump personally insulted him (and all American prisoners of war, for good measure) in a very public manner. But even if McCain, as expected, wins tonight, he'll then go on to face a Democratic challenger in what could also be a very tight race for him.

McCain has come a long way from his original "maverick" political persona, it's pretty easy to see. He built his political reputation around being his own man and taking on his own political party when he disagreed with them. This worked quite well for McCain, at least up until his defeat to George W. Bush in the 2000 presidential primaries. After that point, McCain got noticeably less mavericky and embraced his own party for better or worse, as best evidenced by McCain campaigning for Bush's re-election (in an effort to remain in good enough graces with Republicans to make his own second bid for the presidency in 2008). This also worked out well for McCain, at least until he made his last big mavericky move -- his selection of Sarah Palin for running mate, rather than any of the Establishment Republican choices others were pushing upon him.

Since his rather resounding defeat by Barack Obama, McCain has shown occasional bursts of maverick behavior, but the label really has to be considered retired in the 2016 campaign. McCain's support for Donald Trump must be even more personally demeaning for McCain than his less-than-wholehearted appearances on Bush's second campaign. The man not only flat-out insulted and demeaned McCain (something Dubya never did), Trump also (to the best of my knowledge) has never apologized for the slight. McCain's war record is a fundamental part of his personal life story. To attack that is to attack the core of McCain's being. So watching McCain being forced to kowtow to Trump now -- to save his own political skin -- means that the entire maverick concept is dead and buried forever.

Arizona voters have a wide maverick streak of their own, which is one reason why McCain finds himself in such a tight spot. McCain has never been as hardline on immigration as many of the Arizona voters who keep sending him to Washington. The state was ripe for a Trump-like figure to come along and challenge McCain in the primary, in fact. For McCain, disavowing Trump strongly (as he did during the presidential primary season) might mean losing enough Republican primary voters to lose the nomination. The margin of victory may be pretty thin, so McCain simply can't afford to lose a big block of primary votes.

However, this political opportunism cuts both ways. Even if McCain handily wins his primary, he's still going to have to face a strong Democrat in November. And Arizona's electorate is shifting a lot more blue, these days. This is due to multiple factors, including a general slow demographic shift of the Southwest from Republican to Democratic. New Mexico and Colorado are now pretty solidly blue states, while Nevada remains more of a tossup. Arizona may be the next red state to move into battleground status in the presidential race, and Democrats are busily signing up as many Latino voters there as they can (Southwestern Latinos have historically voted in low numbers relative to their actual population).

What this means is that John McCain will quite likely make the mother of all pivots, right after his primary win. His hand will be forced -- Donald Trump has announced he's giving a major immigration speech in Arizona on Wednesday, meaning McCain will only have a day to decide whether to join in the rally or not. Perhaps there will be a "scheduling conflict"?

John McCain has been walking a tightrope during this election season. He obviously (and with good reason) can't stand Donald Trump, but he's had to transition from denouncing him during the primaries to now "supporting the nominee of my party." But that could be temporary too -- McCain might just decide his general election chances would improve if he moves swiftly away from supporting Trump after wrapping up the nomination.

It's not pretty to watch a politician exhibit such naked self-preservation. McCain is showing that he'll do whatever it takes to get elected, even if that means supporting a man who belittled his time as a prisoner of war. He may find some excuse for refusing to support Trump in the near future, but it'll be no more than a convenience. After all, if he's now supporting Trump after all Trump's said (especially about him) during the campaign, what could possibly represent the straw that broke the camel's back? For McCain, it'll be no more than a calculated attempt to pander to independent voters who are not going to vote for Trump in November. Or, to put it another way, about as far from being a maverick as you can imagine.

-- Chris Weigant

 

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12 Comments on “McCain, A Rock, And A Hard Place”

  1. [1] 
    Osborne Ink wrote:

    Haven't you heard, Chris? Moderate is the new maverick!

  2. [2] 
    neilm wrote:

    What on earth can be motivating John mcCain at his age to behave this way?

    It is just sad. I'm really sorry I have to watch this and I desperately hope he can redeem himself.

    He is a good American.

    I still respect him. Chronological order isn't always the best way to judge people. His amazing character in Vietnam will always define him as a hero.

  3. [3] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    mccain won the primary handily, and will probably also win the general election handily. yes, he's a politician. yes, he's a republican. and yes, he has at times put his ambitions before his principles. but for heaven's sake, at least the man HAS principles! i really do want the democrats to keep the white house and take the senate, but if they can do so without knocking mccain off his perch, it's a state of affairs i can live with.

  4. [4] 
    apophis wrote:

    The EGO has landed in Mexico for a chat with President Nieto. His first meeting with a foreign leader. Then it's on to Arizona for a speech on immigration.

    Any thoughts on this?

  5. [5] 
    Michale wrote:

    The EGO has landed in Mexico for a chat with President Nieto. His first meeting with a foreign leader. Then it's on to Arizona for a speech on immigration.

    Any thoughts on this?

    Your immature and childish personal attack notwithstanding, I think it shows great bravery on the part of Trump.. There were several death threats against Trump by the Cartels and others.. Both the Mexican security services and the US Secret Service advised against the trip, due to security concerns...

    Trump went anyways.. That shows courage..

    I know ya'all would rather slice yer wrists than concede ANY good thing about Trump, but the facts are the facts...

    Michale

  6. [6] 
    Michale wrote:

    Your immature and childish personal attack notwithstanding,

    One has to wonder if anyone here can actually address the facts and the issues with regards to Trump without resorting to childish personal attacks and immature name-calling...

    1000 quatloos says it's impossible..

    Michale

  7. [7] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    In 2008, McCain won the Republican nomination running as a moderate in a sea of ultra-conservatives. I had supported McCain mainly because I agreed with him regarding his positions on most issues. But something happened immediately following his winning the primaries and just before his accepting the nomination -- McCain flipped on every position he held that even closely resembled the position held by Democrats. Overnight it seemed he had flip flopped without any explanation. I couldn't believe it. Why divert from the platform that had won him the nomination in favor of one that matched that of those he had defeated? People may not remember this part of the 2008 election, but it was a huge wake-up call to me. It was at this point that a friend challenged me to fact check everything I heard the Republicans say for one month to see if I wanted to support them anymore. Just two weeks of fact-checking, along with Palin's VP appointment, was all it took for me to say farewell to the GOP, once and for all!

    It wasn't easy to leave the GOP. No one enjoys admitting that they were wrong about what they supported and believed in. No one wants to feel foolish for buying into what seemed so obvious once you distanced yourself from it. I liken it to being a cult member, in some ways. When everyone around you is saying the sky is green and the grass is blue, believing that to be the truth isn't as outlandish as you might think.

  8. [8] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    It's a shame that the teabagger/Trumpthug didn't beat MacThuselah. Nobody should ever forget that he's the senile old geezer who wanted to make Palin VP and now he's eight years older. Before it's all over, they'll be wheeling his corpse into the senate chamber like they did with Strom Thurmond.

  9. [9] 
    Michale wrote:

    It's a shame that the teabagger/Trumpthug didn't beat MacThuselah.

    Like I said...

    Sometimes it's a curse being correct all the time...

    Michale

  10. [10] 
    Michale wrote:

    It wasn't easy to leave the GOP. No one enjoys admitting that they were wrong about what they supported and believed in. No one wants to feel foolish for buying into what seemed so obvious once you distanced yourself from it. I liken it to being a cult member, in some ways.

    Exactly....

    Which explains the undying slavish devotion to Hillary...

    Michale

  11. [11] 
    Michale wrote:

    mccain won the primary handily, and will probably also win the general election handily. yes, he's a politician. yes, he's a republican. and yes, he has at times put his ambitions before his principles. but for heaven's sake, at least the man HAS principles!

    Yer fighting a losing battle, JL....

    Those who partake of the '-D' kool-aid would rather set themselves ablaze than admit that ANYONE with a '-R' after their name would have ANY redeeming quality....

    Michale

  12. [12] 
    Michale wrote:

    Anthony Weiner....

    Bill Clinton.....

    Two of a kind...

    And the wives that enable their despicable behavior simply for political ambitions and expedience???

    Despicable...

    Michale

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