Sen. John McCain, the 2008 Republican Presidential nominee, made comments on Monday that he is “concentrating” on a tough Senate re-election battle, while claiming he wasn’t affected by comments from Donald Trump.
McCain also appeared to be avoiding a Jeb Bush endorsement during an interview with the Wall Street Journal.
“I have my own race to run and will be concentrating on that election,” McCain told the WSJ. McCain faces rising primary challenger Dr. Kelli Ward — an Arizona State Senator who stepped down in December to focus on her campaign to replace McCain in the U.S. Senate.
An August 2015 poll showed Ward beating McCain by a margin of nine percent. In October Ward announced that she had raised over half a million dollars in her first quarter of fundraising — more than any first time Senate candidate in recent history except Sen. Ted Cruz.
McCain — who faced primary challenger J.D. Hayworth in 2010 — is remembered by many Arizonans for a failed campaign promise to “build the danged [border] fence.”
2016 Presidential candidate Donald Trump visited Arizona in July of last year, drawing an audience estimated at between 10,000 and 20,000. His comments focused around the issues of illegal immigration and border security. The event drew backlash from Senator McCain.
“This performance with our friend out in Phoenix is very hurtful to me,” McCain told a New Yorker reporter of Trump’s rally. The effect of Trump’s visit elicited further backlash from McCain who said, “Because what [Trump] did was he fired up the crazies.”
Trump fired back, defending those “great Americans” against McCain’s disparaging “crazies” slam. During a subsequent Q&A session, moderator Frank Luntz defended McCain as a “war hero.” Trump responded to Luntz in agreement, while at the same time disparaging McCain’s military service. The senior Senator claimed in Monday’s interview, “It didn’t affect me.” In interviews shortly after the July event, McCain attempted to downplay the interaction, as well as his “crazies” comments.
Trump scored 53 per cent favorability among veterans in a poll of Republicans released just a week later. McCain saw only 41 per cent favorability among the same group.
Trump issued an official statement on McCain that same month:
I am not a fan John McCain because he has done so little for our Veterans and he should know better than anybody what the Veterans need, especially in regards to the VA. He is yet another all talk, no action politician who spends too much time on television and not enough time doing his job and helping the Vets.
In November McCain bashed Trump’s border wall plans during a National Defense Forum at California’s Ronald Reagan Library. The statement came in line with his failure to build the 2010 campaign-promised “danged fence” and his support for de-facto amnesty in the Gang of Eight immigration reform bill. In January 2014 McCain was officially censured by his own Arizona Republican Party for a liberal voting record. Politico reported the McCain allies responded in an attempt to purge conservatives from the party in Arizona.
Of the 2016 presidential race McCain said, “I feel a little nostalgic.”
McCain campaigned hard for his buddy Senator Lindsay Graham before the 2016 Presidential contender dropped from the race in December. Graham went on to endorse establishment candidate Jeb Bush.
Now McCain says he’s staying out of the presidential race, choosing not to follow Graham with a Jeb! endorsement. He told the WSJ that instead he’s focusing on his own bid for re-election to the U.S. Senate. McCain told the WSJ on Monday, “I have a lot of respect for a number of the presidential candidates.”
Conservative Campaign Committee PAC urged supporters to back Ward in November in an email that revisited McCain’s “crazies” slam.
Gun Owners of America came out strongly in support of Ward. Gun Owners of America Executive Director Larry Pratt accused McCain of not respecting the Constitution.
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