Cindy McCain all but endorsed him at the Democratic convention when she agreed to narrate a video about Biden’s friendship with John McCain, but she never quite pulled the trigger and said she’d be supporting Biden this fall. Presumably she and the campaign agreed that she should hold back for the time being and make an official endorsement closer to Election Day, for greater impact.
Or maybe McCain told the campaign that she wanted to wait a bit and see how the polls in Arizona looked. If the state began shifting to Trump over the summer, she may have calculated that her endorsement would do her and her family more harm than it would do Biden good. As it turned out, Arizona surprisingly remained one of Biden’s stronger states in battleground polling — right up until this morning, ironically just hours after McCain’s endorsement, when ABC/WaPo shocked the world with a poll showing Trump suddenly ahead by one.
Which makes me think maybe I’ve got this all wrong. Possibly McCain told the Biden campaign that she’d prefer not to endorse unless the polls *tightened* and it seemed like her support might be necessary. Sleepy Joe’s internal numbers may be showing that Arizona is more of a fight than the public polling would suggest. In any event, it’s official now:
My husband John lived by a code: country first. We are Republicans, yes, but Americans foremost. There's only one candidate in this race who stands up for our values as a nation, and that is @JoeBiden.
— Cindy McCain (@cindymccain) September 22, 2020
Did anything happen between the convention and yesterday that might have pushed McCain into a full-fledged endorsement? Yep, she told the Times.
“The most important thing that moved me a great deal was talking about troops’ being ‘losers,’” Ms. McCain said, referring to an article in The Atlantic. “You know we have children in the military, as did the Bidens.”
She added, “I want my president to have my back, and I don’t believe that’s the case right now.”…
Ms. McCain said she was planning to actively help Mr. Biden and would participate in virtual campaign events and join him when he appears in Arizona, which is seen as a swing state this year.
Trump heard the news and responded with restraint. No doubt his instinct was to attack John McCain’s widow but he was smart enough to hold back on that, realizing how it might play in Arizona:
I hardly know Cindy McCain other than having put her on a Committee at her husband’s request. Joe Biden was John McCain’s lapdog. So many BAD decisions on Endless Wars & the V.A., which I brought from a horror show to HIGH APPROVAL. Never a fan of John. Cindy can have Sleepy Joe!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 23, 2020
Coincidentally, Jim Kolbe, who served Arizona in the House for 22 years, is out today with an op-ed making the conservative case for voting Biden. Clearly the campaign is orchestrating a “Republicans for Joe” PR push as the state creeps closer to the start of early voting on October 7. Is Cindy’s famous daughter set to join the endorsement parade too on “The View” today or this week? We’ll see.
The McCains are running two risks here, as I noted in the post about Cindy’s narration for Biden’s convention video. One is simply that Trump will win the state after all and demonstrate that the McCain family has less influence over Arizona politics than the conventional wisdom believed. The other is the damage this will do to the McCain children within the Arizona GOP in case any of them has dreams of running for office in the future (at least as Republicans), as has been rumored. As I said in August, it’s possible that the kids will follow the Jeb Bush/George P. Bush model, in which the parent criticize Trump while the child shows fealty and thus remains in the good graces of Republican voters. But certainly Meghan wouldn’t do that; go back and watch her famous eulogy for her dad. And it’s hard to imagine McCain’s sons doing it given how gratuitously nasty Trump has been to their father, even after death.
So I don’t know what happens here. Presumably Cindy consulted with her kids before doing this, knowing that it will affect their political futures. Maybe they don’t want to run for office. Or maybe they’re all taking a calculated gamble that as Arizona turns bluer and Republicans there get desperate for victories, they’ll be willing to forgive the McCains any heresy in the name of putting someone on the ballot with the name recognition needed to win.
Oh, and as for the downballot races in Arizona this year, this is ice cold:
Ms. McCain, asked whether she would support Ms. McSally, who has consistently trailed in the polls behind Mark Kelly, the Democratic challenger, flatly said no. “I have no interest in it,” she said.
The McCain family was reportedly “deeply irritated” with McSally after she kept her distance from John’s legacy in 2018, as he was dying of brain cancer. McSally was afraid that showing too much affection for Maverick publicly might piss off McCain-hating populist Republican voters in the primary, spoiling her chance at the Senate nomination. So now the McCains pointedly aren’t showing much affection for her.
One last point about Cindy McCain’s media tour this morning: She’s making no bones about her role in the Biden campaign and to whom her endorsement is supposed to appeal. “I’m hoping that I can convince suburban women who are kind of on the fence about things to come with me on this and step out of their comfort zone and join Team Biden,” she told “Good Morning, America.” She made the same point in the CBS interview below. This is all about tightening Biden’s grip on suburbanites, in particular running up the margins with suburban women. Maybe she’ll help. We’ll see.