As the Ward camp hit McCain for exemplifying everything Republican presidential primary voters had rejected by nominating Trump, the Kirkpatrick campaign criticized McCain for his reckless Trumpism. “Elected leaders have a moral duty to work together to root out terrorism and keep Americans safe,” the Kirkpatrick campaign’s statement read. “But today, we saw John McCain cross a dangerous line in comments that undermine our Commander in Chief on national security issues—at the very moment the president was in Orlando to comfort victims’ families. It’s difficult to imagine the old John McCain being this reckless with something so serious. John McCain has changed after 33 years in Washington.” On the Kirkpatrick campaign’s website, the statement is squeezed between two other news releases connecting McCain to Trump.
Could John McCain lose? By his own admission, yes. “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 at a private event in early May. The polling in neither his primary nor his prospective general election matchup is all that cushy.
Trump’s position at the top of the ticket gives his rivals on the right and the left a feeling that this is the cycle in which their respective prophecies will be met. Immigration hard-liners in this hot-tempered border state—“the crazies” of whom McCain once spoke—hope Trump’s triumph is the sign from God that this is the year they’ll retire McCain through a primary. Democrats see McCain’s defeat at the hands of Kirkpatrick as the herald of tomorrow’s blue Arizona, a state whose politics will be shaped by the growing Latino share of the electorate.
Each camp may be more given to wish-casting than it admits. The right-wing resistance to McCain in Arizona has earned plenty of national press over the years, but it’s never proven to be more than a vocal minority. And Democratic hopes of turning Arizona blue now sound an awful lot like Democratic hopes of turning Texas blue did a couple of years ago.