Yes, the entire conservative wing of the Republican Party just made a huge eyeroll. Mr. Maverick made his long-awaited announcement official last night; he’s going to run for re-election next year (via NBC News):
“I have decided to run for re-election,” the Arizona senator told NBC News in an exclusive interview revealing his plans to pursue a sixth term on Capitol Hill. “I’m ready. I am more than ready. In some ways, I am eager.”
McCain is currently 78 years old but will be 80 by Election Day in 2016. He defended his vitality, saying that he is “just getting started” when it comes to his Senate career.
“I say watch me,” he said. “Take a look. Take a look at my 18 hour days. Take a look at the hearings we have. Take a look at my legislative accomplishments.”
McCain finally landed a dream job this year as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. From that perch, he can continue the committee’s long tradition of bipartisanship. But the post also gives McCain an even bigger megaphone on national security, which he uses often to criticize President Barack Obama.
“I have never been more concerned about the security of this nation because of the feckless leadership of the president of the United States,” he said.
After winning the Republican Party’s nomination for president in 2008, McCain has faced anger from conservatives who saw him as too moderate.
Tea Party groups see him as a top target for a primary challenge. Last year, Arizona’s state Republican Party censured McCain as too liberal, but today he says his home state relationships “have improved significantly.”
To win his own re-election, McCain said he will stress home state issues, including Arizona’s drought, his work to benefit a local copper mine and his bipartisan legislation to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs after scandal at Phoenix VA Medical Center.
McCain survived a primary challenge from former Congressman J.D. Hayworth in 2010. He went on to win the general election handily over Democrat Rodney Glassman, with nearly 59 percent of the vote. Next year will be no different; conservatives have been looking for someone to boot Mr. McCain. Some were even thinking about reaching out to Sarah Palin, which the incumbent Republican laughed off.
“Sarah and I have maintained a very close and warm relationship. That’s just not in the realm of possibility,” he told the Arizona Republic. Yet, the publication also mentioned State Sen. Kelli Ward, who said she’s giving serious consideration to a 2016 primary challenge to Mr. McCain:
“I have been approached by many Arizonans who have asked me to throw my hat into the ring and run for the US Senate. People have come to know me by my principled conservative voting record and my interactive communication style which leads them to trust that I would continue to represent Arizona well, regardless of the office. I am listening and speaking with people, and a US Senate race is something under active consideration.”
Obama’s recent immigration initiatives have given what’s left of the Tea Party movement a shot of adrenaline, according to the New York Times. McCain’s support for comprehensive immigration reform is still seen as toxic:
Conservatives say emotions over immigration run so high that the issue could be even more politically potent than the Affordable Care Act. Like many of the economic concerns that animated Tea Party supporters, immigration issues play to people’s anxieties about their financial well-being and the future. Many conservatives who have long mistrusted Mr. Obama because they think his policies will fundamentally alter America believe that his new immigration order will do just that, with millions of potential new foreign-born citizens even though the president’s action does not call for a path to citizenship.
The conundrum for the Republican Party is how to channel that energy. Turned against liberalism, as it was in the 2010 elections that ousted Democrats from power in the House of Representatives, it can deliver serious political advantage. But turned inward, as it so often has been over the last four years, it threatens to tear the party apart. In Virginia, Mr. Cantor’s ouster so emboldened activists that they have started using “to Cantor” as a shorthand for defeating establishment Republicans.
Last July, McCain said that the Republican Party can defeat Hillary in 2016, but that will only happen if they pass immigration reform (via Time):
Arizona Sen. John McCain said Thursday that he believes Republicans can defeat former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2016, but only if they pass immigration reform.
Passing immigration reform was the sole policy recommendation of the 2013 Republican Party autopsy into its 2012 rout, but the House Republican conference has repeatedly blocked any action on the measure since the Senate passed a reform bill last year.
“Hopefully my colleagues in the House will realize the same demographics that I am referring to and that they will at least in some way bring up immigration reform, whether it’s piecemeal, whether it’s one-at-a-time,” he said. “I think as the 2016 campaign gets closer that my colleagues will recognize … that we are marginalizing the Republican Party,” McCain added.
Again, as I wrote over at Townhall, Republicans should try and gobble as many Hispanic voters as they can in 2016. But, this it really isn’t a doom and gloom scenario if we don’t have a huge surge in Hispanic voters. We can still win without a massive boost in Hispanic support; it’s just a much harder road to the White House. As Nate Cohn wrote, the lion share of Hispanic voters live in states that aren’t competitive in national elections. Texas isn’t going blue; Wendy Davis set the clock back on that Democratic initiative even further. And California isn’t going red. That leaves the swing state of Florida, which Obama won by a slim margin in 2012. Admittedly, Republicans need to win Florida next year in order to win the election.
Now, Rubio’s soon-to-be official pollster said we need at least 40 percent of the Hispanic vote to win in 2016. Romney got 39 percent of the Hispanic vote in Florida, and lost the state by 0.9 percent. So, a slightly better performance with Hispanic and white voters can make up that deficit, right?
The one thing that is omitted from these demographic-national election discussions is that the electorate–on average–is still 75 percent white. Minor shifts in that massive voting bloc has a huge impact in national elections, even more than that from Hispanic voters–who were only 10 percent of the electorate in 2012.
In a 2013 panel at the Brookings Institute, Sean Trende of Real Clear Politics said that Republicans could’ve clinched the majority of the popular vote, and possibly the presidency, if they got 21 percent more Hispanic voters, 16 percent more Black voters, or 3 percent more white voters. He also mentioned that fewer whites voted in 2012 (72 percent) than in 2004 (77 percent). Why? Trende added that the areas where white turnout was down–a huge cluster of counties stretching from upstate New York to New Mexico–was where Ross Perot’s message of economic populism resonated when he ran for president in the 1990s. They stayed home because Obama was too liberal, and Mitt Romney was just too unrelatable. Nevertheless, white working class whites have been flocking to the GOP, and it’s a huge obstacle for Democrats in their campaign to retake the House, Senate, and the White House in the future. So, it’s not a “do or die” situation if Republicans don’t pass immigration reform.
Nevertheless, McCain should watch out for Rep. Krysten Sinema (D-AZ), who Politico noted cruised to re-election, despite a Republican wave last year. Also, she’s drifted toward the center, with the Times reporting that her party line votes have decreased, dropping “to 73 percent from 80 percent this year.” Yet, if Sinema decides not to run, Democrats pretty much have no one for 2016, but McCain will have to survive an expected primary challenge before he can start relaxing somewhat. For starters, he doesn’t have as much cash to spend to fend off a more right-leaning candidate this year:
if Sinema bows out, Democrats’ top tier includes Mark Kelly, the astronaut and husband of former Rep. Gabby Giffords; Richard Carmona, the former surgeon general who lost a Senate bid to Jeff Flake in 2012; and former Gov. Janet Napolitano, if she could be lured away from the president of the University of California. Democrats see all three as extremely unlikely to run. The next rung of potential candidates includes Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick and Rep.-elect Ruben Gallego.
Wildcard: McCain’s cash. In 2010, McCain fended off a primary challenge by dumping $20 million into the race to batter his opponent, former Rep. J.D. Hayworth. Much of that cash was left over from his presidential bid and won’t be at his disposal when his number is called in 2016. That could lead to more parity on the airwaves, especially if a challenger wins help from conservative groups wary of McCain.
Well, here we go.
**This post has been updated to clarify Rep. Sinema’s voting record with her party. Oh, and Texas certainly isn’t going blue.