Is John McCain in trouble from Kelli Ward next year?

I remember people talking about running a primary challenge against John McCain since at least his 2008 presidential run. That came to pass in 2010, but J.D. Hayworth wound up being beaten like a rug to the tune of more than a twenty point spread. Next year it’s time for McCain to face the voters again and he’s already drawn a challenger for his party’s nomination. State Senator Kelli Ward (R – Lake Havasu City) has been building a team and getting ready for this fight since early this year and she was recently in D.C. talking up her bid and looking for conservative support. (Daily Caller)

The state legislator challenging Arizona Sen. Republican John McCain in the 2016 Republican primary is trying to gather support from conservative activists on Capitol Hill this week.

Arizona Republican state Sen. Kelli Ward spoke to weekly conservative gatherings on Wednesday and hosted a meet-and-greet breakfast fundraiser at the Capitol Hill Club.

Ward, a medical doctor by trade, works in private practice in emergency departments while serving as a state lawmaker.

Ward has some big-time help from the consultant firm Axiom Strategies, which is owned by Ted Cruz campaign manager Jeff Rowe. (Cruz officials told CNN that the Texas senator does not involve himself in the firm’s other campaigns.)

Is this a threat McCain is (or should be) taking seriously? One of the first issues to look at is the money. Ward reports having raised a little over a half million dollars this year. McCain is sitting on a bit more than twice that much. Neither is a shockingly high amount for a Senate race these days. (One of the last estimates I saw in New York from some campaign strategists was telling aspiring candidates to not even bother if they couldn’t come up with five million, but that includes the general.) McCain’s been around this game for a long time and has a lot of friends. If he wanted to turn on the afterburners I have no doubt he could knock together five or six times as much as he has now in fairly short order.

Perhaps more disturbing for McCain than the money question is the dip he’s seen in his poll numbers at home. A little more than two months ago a Gravis poll had McCain losing to Ward by nine points. (Five months earlier most of the state had no idea who she was.) Further, his favorability rating had sagged from being in the sixties in 2008 to 41% this summer. That’s not lethal territory for a long time incumbent but it’s got to be a troubling sign.

Perhaps the biggest question which comes to my mind is… why is McCain sticking around? By the time the primary vote takes place next August McCain will be turning 80 years old. Obviously there’s no upper limit for serving, but at this point hasn’t he had enough of performing in this circus? It’s just puzzling to me what he thinks six more years is going to do and he’s obviously put in his time serving the nation. He’s getting beaten up by the conservatives in his own party and it’s not like the Democrats are doing him any favors. And if he’s got a serious challenger who will require him to go back into dialing for dollars mode to fend off a primary bid and his numbers are down, it seem like one would want to go out on top after a career such as his. Why risk it? Retiring would seem like a much preferable option to being booted out by a competitor from your own party.

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