McCain Shrugs Off Early Scare, Trounces Hayworth

Posted August 24, 2010 at 10:59pm

Updated: 2:49 a.m.

Sen. John McCain easily won Arizona’s Republican Senate primary Tuesday night and is poised to cruise to a fifth term in November.

Despite a spirited challenge from former GOP Rep. J.D. Hayworth, McCain led 57 percent to 32 percent, with 85 percent of precincts reporting.

In the general election, McCain will face former Tucson City Councilman Rodney Glassman, who defeated three others to win the Democratic primary. With 85 percent of precincts reporting, Glassman led with 35 percent.

Catching McCain will be difficult for any Democrat in Republican-leaning Arizona, which hasn’t elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1988.

Hayworth provided McCain a serious challenge from the right, representing a portion of the state’s GOP electorate upset with some of McCain’s moderate stances over the years. That included taking the lead on immigration and campaign finance reforms, which were among the issues that made McCain a “maverick,” a label he dropped in this race.

By March and April, McCain’s lead was down to the single digits as incumbents everywhere appeared to be at risk. To refurbish his image, the McCain campaign featured ads highlighting his tough rhetoric on securing the border, an already hot-button issue that heated up even more after Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed a controversial state immigration bill.

McCain also went after Hayworth’s record in Congress, calling him an “avid earmarker” during his tenure in the House. He called Hayworth a “huckster” in a TV ad that featured the former Congressman’s appearance in an infomercial instructing viewers how to take advantage of federal grant money.

Hayworth cautioned voters that McCain’s move to the right was temporary. But after McCain spent $10 million in the previous three months, by the end of June his lead in the polls had increased to more than 20 points.