Tuesday, June 22, 2010

NY Times: "McCain is Now Running Just to Stay in Place"

Very revealing article from the New York Times on how fed up Arizonans are with McCain, confronting him angrily at town halls (note he has time to attend numerous town halls in Arizona, but not to debate JD Hayworth, says he has "a day job"). Some excerpts -

But less than two years after he was defeated by Barack Obama, nothing seems quite the same for Senator John McCain, who has gone from being his party’s candidate for president rallying 1,000 supporters at a Florida football stadium to furiously defending his Senate seat before 60 recession-weary residents in a Hampton Inn in Lake Havasu, Ariz.

Mr. McCain’s new position is one of defense: he is fending off a primary fight from the right flank of his party in the form of former Representative J. D. Hayworth, as well as withering criticism of his former position on immigration from constituents. He also seems to be engaged in a battle within himself, hewing to the high road, as he has historically done, but at times unleashing the anger he seems to feel about the outcome of the 2008 race.

Between the unusually late primary date of Aug. 24 — which could have an impact on turnout — and the volatility of an energized primary base that has never quite cottoned to Mr. McCain, his team is concerned enough to keep him pressing the flesh all his non-Washington days.

But just as often he squints as if he is bracing for a verbal blow. And he can shift from the animated Mr. McCain of past campaigns — quick with a joke or a warm “Thank you for your service” to a young mother whose husband is on his third tour to Iraq — to being uneasy and defensive about the parochial issues he finds himself hectored about.

“I’m not going to come in here and tell the local government what to do,” Mr. McCain snapped at Darla Tilley, director of the Parker center for the elderly, who pressed him in early June on the lack of nursing homes and assisted-living facilities in her county. A little while later, before leaving for his next stop, Mr. McCain pivoted to contrition. “I hope to be more like you,” he told her.

In an interview later, Ms. Tilley said she had been upset less by the exchange than by the fact that “the senator didn’t really seem to know or understand how many state-funded programs we have lost here.”

He never mentions Mr. Hayworth by name and has so far refused to debate him. “I have a day job,” he said in response to one voter who pressed him on this. McCain campaign officials refused numerous requests for interviews.

“We all know what happened after 9/11,” said one man in the audience here. “Why didn’t you close this border down? Where were you, Senator?”

The senator sparred at the library with a voter, Richard Martin, who took him to task for 15 minutes over his history of immigration legislation, his distaste for torture and his refusal to debate his opponent. “You won’t have any debates,” Mr. Martin fumed. “You’re afraid of J. D. Hayworth. The people in Arizona deserve debates.”

Repeatedly over three days, Mr. McCain was asked why he had supported “amnesty” for illegal immigrants in the past (“I never supported amnesty,” he says), and how he feels about a proposed state law intended to prevent children of illegal immigrants born in the United States from automatically becoming citizens. (He deflected the question.)

“My favorite bumper sticker is the one that says, ‘Don’t tell Obama what comes after a trillion,’ ” he said, using a reliable laugh line.

Editorial note: Telling that McCain jokes about the next level of money after a trillion considering McCain helped Obama along by voting for the billion dollar pork tarp bailouts

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