On second thought, maybe some of those “wacko birds” weren’t too bad after all, eh? It sounds like John McCain might even have benefited from a hobbit or two succeeding in the 2016 primary race. The former Republican presidential nominee now worries that the current Republican presumptive nominee might complicate his efforts to win re-election in Arizona, thanks to the hostility Donald Trump has engendered among Hispanic voters. Politico’s Burgess Everett and Seung Min Kim report that while McCain has publicly dismissed the idea that Trump will impact his race, an audio recording at a private fundraiser in April shows McCain telling a different story to donors:
Publicly, John McCain insists Donald Trump will have a negligible effect on his campaign for reelection. But behind closed doors at a fundraiser in Arizona last month, the Republican senator and two-time presidential hopeful offered a far more dire assessment to his supporters.
“If Donald Trump is at the top of the ticket, here in Arizona, with over 30 percent of the vote being the Hispanic vote, no doubt that this may be the race of my life,” McCain said, according to a recording of the event obtained by POLITICO. “If you listen or watch Hispanic media in the state and in the country, you will see that it is all anti-Trump. The Hispanic community is roused and angry in a way that I’ve never seen in 30 years.”
Actually, this could be just as big a problem for McCain among other Republicans:
One of his former top aides, Mark Salter, has already said he will support Hillary Clinton for president.
McCain, like Kelly Ayotte, has indicated that he will support Trump as the party’s nominee, but that doesn’t mean he has to agree with Trump in public on every issue. Expect McCain, Ayotte, and others in the House and Senate to put some distance between themselves and Trump when the rubber meets the road after the convention. But McCain and the party have themselves to blame for this, and not just because of McCain’s personal insults toward conservatives in the Senate. The issue of immigration has long been a sore point on the Right, especially the lack of progress on the wall that McCain has largely opposed. Had Republicans taken care of that issue, especially when they controlled both the White House and Congress before 2007, Trump would have never become the populist force we have seen in 2016.
He may be right about Trump’s impact, but McCain has more troubles here than Trump. There have only been two polls in Arizona showing head-to-head matchups in a Trump/Clinton general election; and one has them tied, and Hillary is up six points in the other. Unlike in Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, where Trump’s poor performance seems to have little impact on Senate Republican re-election hopes, McCain is not doing well in general-election matchups against Ann Kirkpatrick, with a tie in one and a one-point lead in another.
But even that may have less to do with Trump than it does with McCain himself. A new poll from PPP today shows that McCain may not even make it to the general election, as he’s in dead heats with more than one of his own primary challengers:
John McCain’s troubles with conservatives have him in a whole lot of trouble for reelection next year. Even among Republican primary voters just 41% approve of the job he’s doing to 50% who disapprove. Only 37% of primary voters say they generally support him for renomination, compared to 51% who say they would prefer someone ‘more conservative.’
It’s his struggles on the right that have McCain imperiled. He gets narrowly positive reviews from both ‘somewhat conservative’ (51/37) and moderate (50/44) Republicans. But among those who identify themselves as ‘very conservative,’ just 21% approve of the job McCain is doing to 71% who disapprove.
The good news for McCain is that he does lead all the prospective primary challengers we tested against him in head to head match ups, although some of them would clearly start out as toss ups. McCain leads David Schweikert 40/39, Matt Salmon 42/40, Kelli Ward 44/31, and Christine Jones 48/27. If he survives to the general McCain has leads of 4 to 6 points against the Democrats we tested again him- he’s up 40/36 on Fred DuVal, 40/34 on Richard Carmona, and 42/36 on both Ann Kirkpatrick and Kyrsten Sinema. Those numbers may be misleadingly close though- the undecideds in each of those match ups are strongly Republican leaning.
Tellingly for a long-time incumbent, McCain doesn’t get to 50% against any of his primary challengers. In the general-election matchups, 42% is a very poor ceiling for a candidate seeking a sixth term in office.It’s worth noting, too, that McCain still gets a 49/45 favorability rating among Hispanics, so at least thus far Trump’s ascendance hasn’t done much damage to McCain. The biggest baggage for John McCain in this election seems to be John McCain.