An Objective View: McCain vs. Hayworth

March 24, 2010

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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2 Responses to “An Objective View: McCain vs. Hayworth”

  1. Jujubes said

    It is ridiculous how the light-minded politicos around here are all concerned with who endorsed McCain or Hayworth. Since both teams are back-alley bullies who think nothing of ganging up and smearing the reputations of anyone who won’t swear an oath to them, I would think that your best bet is to just lay low and try to avoid them both.

    There are people in both endorsement camps who don’t know the candidate they have publicly endorsed, know nothing concrete about what they like so much about them that they want to endorse them, and only did so for extraneous reasons. They were either afraid not to, or they think they will get some sort of instant credibility for endorsing SOMEONE ELSE. The idiots don’t get it that the key is to get someone notable to endorse YOU, not the other way around. Sam Crump is running for congress and the only thing I know about him is that he is a brand new state legislator who has done nothing of note in that role, a relatively new resident of Arizona, and he is very giddy about the fact that he brought his nothing reputation and placed it – all the way- behind J.D. Hayworth in a very strange public display that he called his “official endorsement.” Surreal. Note that J.D. is smart enough not to return the favor to a total stranger.

    With all of this pressure to endorse one of the two candidates (I feel a little bad for the 3rd guy, whose name was forgotten the day J.D. got in the race) people are endorsing like it is giving a recommendation for a dry cleaner… not putting their own reputation and “brand” on the line on behalf of a fallible human being they don’t even know.

    Yes, there are HINO’s and MINO’s all over the state now. Endorsements mean nothing here anymore. I would be shocked if some of the folks who endorsed McCain even vote for him. Luckily, he can’t bully his way into their private voting booth! But, there are also those who don’t really like J.D. but feel they have to endorse him. It will be interesting to see if mystery 3rd guy actually picks up a lot of these MINO/HINO votes on election day, if he stays in, that is.

  2. […] not the only one who noticed: Hayworth’s campaign until this point, however, has consisted of “we’re not John […]

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