Leading candidate to replace John McCain in the Senate is ... Cindy McCain?

C’mon. Nothing against Cindy McCain, who’s a businesswoman, a philanthropist, and seemingly a very nice person, but all political dynasties are fundamentally un-American. (You too, Adamses. Merit doesn’t count here.)

This Newsmax report from John Gizzi three days ago isn’t the first time this rumor has been reported. The NYT had it back on May 5: “[S]ome of [John McCain’s] associates, though not his family, have started to quietly put out word that they want a ‘McCain person’ eventually appointed to fill his Senate seat, a roster that includes his wife, Cindy.” Gizzi puts some meat on the bone:

“I’ve always assumed that was the arrangement,” said a friend of the McCain family since John’s 1973 return from captivity in Vietnam.

A former Republican senator who served with McCain agreed:

“I don’t know if this [succession] has been formalized, but that’s what people who know John tell me.”…

One source close to the McCain family said supporters of the senator have quietly let Gov. Ducey know Cindy is the choice of “Team McCain.”

That was published on Monday. As chance would have it, Gov. Doug Ducey paid a visit on Tuesday to John — and Cindy — McCain that wasn’t on his official schedule. Why is any of this of particular relevance right now? Because: Today happens to be a key date under Arizona law for how a Senate vacancy gets filled. (Some who have studied the statutes claim that yesterday was the key date.) If McCain’s seat were to become vacant before June 1, by law the vacancy would be filled via a special election this fall. That would be a nightmare for the GOP since Jeff Flake’s seat is also up this fall and is also soon to be vacant. If McCain had resigned or passed away in May, the party would be forced to defend not one but two Senate seats this year in a purplish red state with Democrats favored to have a big night nationally. That’s a recipe for the Senate turning blue. And it explains why, despite populists demanding that the hated McCain resign due to health reasons, he’s held on. The party wants to avoid an election to fill his seat at all costs.

And in a matter of hours, they’ll succeed in doing so. Under every reading of the relevant statutes I’ve seen, any vacancy that occurs on June 1 or later is not filled by special election. Rather, Ducey gets to appoint a replacement for two years; the special election to fill the vacancy would be held in 2020, a much more favorable timetable for the GOP given that Trump will be on the ballot. By tomorrow morning, John McCain will be free to resign with no ill electoral effects to his party. It’s possible that that’s what Ducey met with him and Mrs. McCain about two days ago. Maybe Maverick made it known that a resignation is imminent and wanted to find out from Ducey whom he intended to appoint. If his answer was “Cindy,” it may be a done deal. We could have a new McCain in the Senate in a matter of days.

The most charitable read on appointing Cindy McCain is that it’s less about keeping the seat in the McCains’ nuclear family than in keeping it in their political family. They’re worried that there’s a dearth of moderate interventionist Republicans in Arizona who could win a primary against a Trumpy candidate like Kelli Ward. (Just look at Jeff Flake’s situation.) So they’re going for pure name brand to try to keep it going: Your best bet in fending off a populist insurgency in a 2020 special election is to have someone else named McCain on the ballot. This isn’t familial greed per se, in other words, it’s cynical strategy to win a skirmish in the ideological civil war that’s tearing the party apart. The McCains aren’t the Kennedys.

But I don’t know. Maybe this is a long-term power play to set things up for Senator Meghan McCain in 2022?

Let me blow your mind with a way that McCain could really screw Trump, if that’s what the old man is after. Have Jeff Flake resign tomorrow, then have McCain resign, then have Ducey appoint Flake to fill the McCain vacancy. Boom — just like that, Flake gets another two years in the Senate to torment Trump. He’s a McCain buddy too and a fellow Gang of Eighter; he’d certainly qualify as a “McCain person.” Imagine the rage Trump would feel upon seeing Flake and Ducey execute that maneuver. Maverick would laugh his ass off.

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