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Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl flies home to Arizona most weekends for a packed schedule of campaigning, fundraising and conservative grass-roots organizing as he warily eyes a competitive Republican primary.
But not for himself.
Sen. John McCain is running for a fifth term, and Kyl has made his top priority the re-election of his friend and home-state colleague to whom he has grown increasingly close. Aides to both Republicans describe their relationship as symbiotic, with Kyls penchant for detailed specificity complementing McCains big-picture outlook.
Despite differing opinions on some issues, they have collaborated over the years on many policy initiatives, while also deferring to each other depending on the required area of expertise. Their bonds are evident on the campaign trail, where Kyl is using his immense credibility with conservatives to shore up McCains right flank a liability for the longtime political maverick.
My assurance to them of his strong convictions the way that hes been able to spread our message to people beyond just our core base and the way that he has led here in the Senate I think has helped to reassure them that he is a huge asset for the conservative cause and for the Republican Conference, Kyl said in an interview. Thats probably the biggest thing I can do is to help reassure people of the role he plays.
Its my top priority, Kyl added, in discussing where McCains race ranks on his political to-do list. Obviously my second priority is to elect as many Republicans as possible this year. But that starts with my colleague in Arizona.
Kyl won a House seat in 1986, the same year McCain advanced to the Senate, and the two have served together ever since. Kyl won his Senate seat in 1994. They were never particularly at odds, as often is the case with two Senators of the same political party from the same state.
But their relationship deepened during the 2006 cycle, when McCain aided Kyls re-election effort in a year that witnessed big Democratic gains nationwide. Two years later, Kyl worked overtime for McCains presidential bid, a role he has reprised this cycle as Arizonas senior Senator looks to overcome a challenge in the states August primary from conservative former Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R).