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Today on the main site I wrote about a contentious Republican primary that will be decided tomorrow. I didn’t mention another contentious Republican primary being held tomorrow: the race between John McCain and J.D. Hayworth. If the polls are accurate, McCain is poised to win renomination. The Washington Post looked at how McCain turned back the Tea Party tide in Arizona:
McCain was particularly concerned about the Club for Growth, the anti-tax, anti-spending organization. It has been involved in many Republican primaries, and in May helped defeat Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah) in his bid for re-nomination.
McCain sought out leaders of the organization. He knew they might still be unhappy about his vote against the Bush tax cuts and disagreed with him on campaign finance reform. But he argued that, under Obama, government spending was now the big issue, and said that on that issue he had a solid conservative record compatible with theirs.
McCain also knew that Hayworth was handicapped in portraying himself as a small-government conservative because of his record of supporting earmarks as a member of the House. McCain attacked Hayworth as a pork-barrel spender and lobbyist, challenging his posture as a Washington outsider. The Club for Growth stayed out of Arizona.
“McCain took Hayworth very seriously very early in ways that other presumptive winners didn’t,” said one conservative strategist who declined to be identified in order to speak candidly. “If Bob Bennett had McCain’s political instincts, he might have been able to save himself.”
A lot of the establishment candidates who have lost Republican primaries to insurgents this year ran horrible races. Trey Grayson, Jane Norton, Bob Bennett were objectively bad candidates. Sue Lowden ran a decent race for most of the year but tripped up massively as she approached this finish line. A lot of criticisms can be made of McCain, but the way he’s run this race isn’t one of them. (Though you could wonder where this McCain was during the 2008 presidential election.)