It’s a fascinating race.  Not only to those of us here in Arizona who understand the depths of anger and animosity that separate the two candidates and their loyal camps, but also to outsiders who have observed the many different faces of John McCain through his many years in the Senate and two failed Presidential runs.

In fact, many outside Arizona are puzzled about how John McCain could be facing such a serious challenge in his home state after winning the nomination for President as Arizona’s Senator and making a run for the highest office in the land in a particularly difficult year for Republicans.  Many are puzzled by the challenge to McCain, unless of course, they live in Washington, DC.  You could probably stretch a line of respectable Washington, DC insiders from Capitol Hill to the Copper Dome who would love nothing more than to see John McCain lose.  It’s not because he’s a maverick.

Not many of those insiders are talking, however, and I guess we’ll see which ones are writing big checks for JD Hayworth.  Instead, we’ve seen a parade of establishment conservatives stand up and support John McCain and even come here to campaign for him.  It will be truly fascinating to see if the support of the Washington establishment proves more of a benefit to or more of a lasso around John McCain in this anti-Washington, anti-establishment fervor that is sweeping the nation and rooted firmly here in Arizona.

In order to defeat John McCain, you need an opponent and JD Hayworth is the one opponent taking on this challenge.  Sure, there a lot of respected, successful, well-known and admired Arizonans who would like to see a change.  Many of them would like to run for office.  None of them would have dared take on John McCain because say what you will about him, the man plays to win with overwhelming strength at whatever the cost.  One has to give JD Hayworth credit for having the cajones to take on this battle.

Hayworth, through his radio show and the strong stand he’s taken on immigration, has developed a loyal and enthusiastic following.  He’s got something good to start with, and hasn’t yet had to really develop and drive home a consistent message advocating for change in Arizona.  It’s early.  And at this point, neither campaign has developed a substantive message beyond “the other guy is bad.”

Hayworth is trying to court the conservative disfavor with McCain’s repeated efforts to endear himself to the national media.  Those efforts to “separate from the pack” fairly consistently resulted in a willingness to work with the flawed assumptions of the media elites and the cocktail party circuit.  In their world, global warming is a serious threat that must be stopped at all costs — even threatening freedom, hurting the economy and encouraging “the sky is falling tactics.”  Too many times on too many issues, when conservatives were climbing uphill on important issues, McCain wasn’t there helping fight, he was laughing on top of the hill with liberal elites kicking stones down at us.

Hayworth’s campaign until this point, however, has consisted of “we’re not John McCain and John McCain is the enemy.”  They have a treasure trove of issues on which McCain has abandoned the base (taxes, guns, environmental extremism, first amendment rights, government regulation to name a few) to work with but have not yet chosen to do so.  It would be good for democracy and their cause if they moved to issues post-haste.  They have a very receptive audience.  At some point, it may benefit them to be more than “we’re not John McCain.”

McCain’s campaign to this point has been that of the playground bully.  He’s sent a message.  He’s mad.  And whenever he wants something (the presidential nomination) or is threatened (in this case by Hayworth) he runs to the right and pretends he’s been there all along.  Rest assured, he’ll run right back to the middle/left on most issues if he wins (especially if Republicans win control of either house in Congress).  That being said, when McCain does run to the right, he is sometimes extremely effective.  McCain has spent years coddling up to media centrists and leftists.  He’s spent decades convincing them that “he’s not one of them (them, being conservatives).”  So they listen.

A right-wing stalwart can go on and on about the latest effort of the Obama administration and be ignored by the media like the always whining two year old they have at home.  But if McCain speaks up (because they consider him a more “credible” voice) he moves to the front of the line.  And he’s an incredibly gifted critic of the Obama administration and the excesses of the Democratic Congress.  He serves the cause of the right as well as anyone when he does it.  The problem is that it doesn’t seem to be in his heart (except for a few defense and fiscal issues) and he only becomes a part of the conservative team when it serves him politically.  And then he leaves.

Make no mistake, this is no endorsement of JD Hayworth.  Let’s be honest.  The jury is still out.  Hayworth failed to establish a credible record of stalwart conservatism in his Washington stay.  He hasn’t distinguished himself like Shadegg, Kyl or Franks as a solid vote against the leftist agenda and a fighter for the right.  And Flake has developed a national following for his consistently conservative record, though many immigration activists are dissatisfied with him on that front.  Hayworth’s media experience benefits him when he appears on TV or the radio.  But in live forums and one-to-one, he not only looks like but shares the human dexterity of a ken doll.

Let’s hope this campaign grounds Hayworth in the conservative philosophy on issues beyond immigration that he’s been trumpeting.  And let’s hope his campaign and the many operatives and activists start to focus on the unlimited number of issues in which they can call into question McCain’s record and have a spirited debate.  Right now, it’s a battle of playground bullies and their friends.

That will not disappear and is part of the process.  But let’s hope the debate rises to a more substantive level before we have to vote in August.

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For conservatives, Republicans, libertarians and other center/right activists and informed citizens, the blogosphere, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other electronic/new media platforms provide a lot of information from which to choose.  This is very, very good thing.  In the past, our sources for news consisted of a few newspapers, a few TV stations and a few local radio stations that had a focus on politics, government and public affairs.  Most of these media outlets hardly recognize concepts like limited government, free markets and liberty as the foundation of America (or Arizona) so it’s not surprising that conservative points of view usually didn’t get expressed equally or treated respectfully.

Thus, the myriad of Arizona political/governmental/social/issue groups on Facebook, our ability to communicate and share links on Twitter and the increasing number of blogs really are a demonstration of the marketplace at work.  Is there a lot of garbage out there?  Absolutely.  Do many of these vehicles exist almost exclusively to provide a seemingly “legitimate” venue for distribution of propaganda from particular politicians, from clients of particular political consultants, from clients of particular public relations/lobby/law firm?  Absolutely.

But if you poke around a bit, you’ll also find some quality writing, some relevant inside information and some creative, coherent analysis that isn’t as prevalent in the “mainstream media.”  That’s exactly what we intend to provide in “Arizona Right to Win.”

Many of us are involved in a myriad of GOP party organizations, tea party groups, issue advocacy groups or other civic-minded pursuits.  All too often, the good work that we do, and the good work the groups do get obscured by what often are highly tribal, cliquish covens that too often resemble the worst of junior high “Lord of the Flies” social interaction.  “Arizona Right to Win” will strive to remain above that fray.  We will seriously and responsibly confront the issues.

We will focus on issues, and specifically not focus on personalities.  We do not like hypocrisy.  We will call it out.  We do not like dishonesty.  We will point it out.   We will not avoid personalities if those personalities are directly relevant to the issues, hypocrisy or dishonesty.  We will not be a vehicle for unfiltered, inaccurate campaign propaganda.  We will cover the campaigns, however.  We will include fair and reasonable information that is relevant to conservatives.