On August 30th, Arizona Republicans will head to the polls to decide whether they will continue to allow Senator John McCain to represent them in Washington, D.C. For more than three decades McCain has been a central figure in the DC establishment and his campaign is bolstered by big money from the permanent political class. He has used that money to ruthlessly attack his anti-establishment primary challenger, former State Senator Dr. Kelli Ward.
Dr. Ward has run the kind of gritty grassroots campaign that has defeated other longtime incumbents like Dick Lugar and Eric Cantor. Bolstered by an army of activists, volunteers, and anti-establishment groups Dr. Ward has tirelessly traveled the state in a warped RV for nearly two years. In March, Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump and Texas Senator Ted Cruz received more than 70% of the vote and Dr. Ward is counting on an anti-establishment surge to overcome being dramatically outspent by McCain and his money groups.
There have been several positive developments for Dr. Ward’s campaign since the last legitimate poll was conducted by Public Policy Polling (PPP) in May. That poll showed Dr. Ward tied with McCain in a heads up race 41% – 41% but trailing 39% – 26% when several lesser known candidates were included. Two of the three candidates splitting the vote have left the race, with Scott McBean failing to turn in enough signatures to make the ballot and Alex Meluskey suspending his campaign just before early voting started on August 3rd. Although Meluskey’s name will still appear on the ballot, the primary race has boiled down to Ward vs McCain.
Ward has also picked up important endorsements from a broad spectrum of center-right luminaries. Phyllis Schlafly, Ron Paul, Congressman Jim Bridenstine, Congressman Thomas Massie, Former Congress man Virgil Goode, Laura Ingraham, and Right Wing News have all thrown their support behind Ward.
Ward is also being bolstered by several outside groups supporting McCain. Gun Owners of America has been on the air all of August with an ad that attacks the “gun-grabbing globalist” McCain and urges freedom lovers to unite behind Dr. Ward. The Conservative Campaign Committee is running a phone-from-home program and several other conservative and anti-establishment groups have run ads, sent mailers, and campaigned for Dr. Ward.
The McCain campaign is downplaying the primary challenge publicly but they’ve spent millions attacking Dr. Ward during the last several months. McCain has feuded with Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump but has offered his tepid endorsement of the Republican standard bearer. Trump also offered a tepid endorsement of McCain for the sake of party unity but it’s clear that the two don’t see eye-to-eye.
Arizona’s long early-voting period means that more than 50% of voters will have already turned in their ballots before the primary on August 30th. Dr. Ward is counting on the late-deciders to break heavily against the incumbent. In tight races, late deciders tend to go to the challenger, which is why McCain is trying to downplay Ward’s chances and why Ward’s campaign must make people believe she’s got a chance.