Could Sen. John mcCain lose his primary this August? Photo by Andrew Harrer
For the last month, Arizona Sen.John McCainhas been running his primary campaign against former Rep.J.D. Hayworthas if it was the final weekend of the 2008 presidential campaign.
On a daily basis, McCain's team bashes Hayworth while simultaneously working to shore up the Senator's right flank through a series of symbolic acts ranging from therejection of the "maverick" titlehe wore proudly during both of his presidential campaigns to his forceful support of Arizona's controversial new immigration law.
(McCain released anadrecently in which he urges the federal government to "complete the danged fence", a message thatseems to be a departure in emphasis-- if not substance -- from his past position.)
Republican observers are divided about the message being sent by McCain's aggressiveness: is he acting out of an abundance of caution or is he panicked by the possibility he will come up short against Hayworth on Aug. 24?
Even McCain's staunchest allies acknowledge, however, that Hayworth poses the most serious challenge to McCain's re-election prospects since he was first elected to the House in 1982. That vulnerability is due not only to the anti-incumbent sentiment in the country but also the primacy of immigration as a central issue in the race -- an issue that nearly ended McCain's 2008 presidential hopes when he came out in favor of comprehensive immigration reform.
It's clear that there is a certain segment of Arizona Republicans who, over the years since McCain was elected to the Senate in 1986, have soured on him and will vote for anyone other than him on the Aug. 24 ballot.
McCain's situation is clearly precarious given the depth of anti-incumbent sentiment nationwide and the frustration directed at him by many conservatives.McCain appears to be doing everything he can to avoid that nightmare scenario.