Former Congressman J.D. Hayworth (R-Arizona) is preparing to run against Senator John McCain for the U.S. Senate in this year’s Republican primary in Arizona. Some on the right, such as Glenn Beck, don’t agree with the decision of Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin to campaign for McCain in Arizona.
Conservative angst over what Sarah Palin does or doesn’t do in Arizona does little good. Palin will go there out of a sense of personal loyalty to a man who brought her to national attention. Personal loyalty can run deeper than political ideology. And while personal loyalty can be to a fault, leadership is impossible without it.
The question isn’t: “What should Sarah do?” The question is: “What should conservatives do?” Whether it’s the tea party movement or the March for Life, conservatives can move from the grassroots, and the smart conservative move is for conservatives to support J.D. Hayworth.
Here are are eight reasons why:
Reason #1: It could work.
With Arizona voters, John McCain has a real problem on his hands: a lack of popularity. Super Tuesday 2008 knocked Romney out of the primaries and saw McCain’s big wins in California and New York, but the untold story may have been Arizona. McCain won Arizona’s primary, but with only 47% of the vote. Republicans across the country were willing to resign themselves to McCain to avoid a prolonged primary process, yet when the votes were counted in his home state, the majority of Arizona primary voters had voted against McCain. There’s a strong possibility they could do so again.
Reason #2: Hayworth is a plausible senator.
One big objection to a Hayworth insurgent win is what message this sends to moderates. The best message may be to run in districts where you suit the district’s ideology. If a religious conservative runs for office in Maine they would get shellacked. Party bosses don’t cry in their imported wines about the message it sends to religious conservative activists about their place in the GOP.
Hayworth isn’t running in Rhode Island; he’s running in Arizona. It’s true Hayworth’s record is unabashedly conservative. The American Conservative Union gave him a 97.50% ACU rating, which is only half a percent more than the state’s other senator, Jon Kyl, who has a 96.96% ACU rating. Kyl beat his last opponent by 10 points in a Democratic year.
A gregarious ex-sportscaster, Hayworth is sharp, eloquent, charismatic, and quick-witted. These traits will be endearing to Arizonans and make him a strong candidate in the fall.
Reason #3: Conservatives don’t owe John McCain anything.
McCain has given conservatives few favors in the last ten years, and even bringing Sarah Palin onto the national stage wasn’t that big a favor. Palin’s charisma and political talents would have brought her to the national spotlight eventually. Running in her own right, as Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney did, she would have been able to introduce herself to the American people on her terms and develop her own policy ideas. Palin saved McCain’s campaign from losing worse. (McCain had only a single-digit lead in Alaska prior to Palin being chosen and could have lost yet another state that hadn’t gone Democratic since 1964.)
Many on the right point to McCain’s 81% American Conservative Union rating as proof that he’s not that bad, but the lifetime rating is misleading. Through 1996, McCain had an 88% conservative voting record. Since 1996, McCain only had one year with an ACU rating greater than 80% (2001, when he had 81%), and four years he has voted less than 70% conservative.
McCain spent the first part of this decade playing media favorite by frustrating the aims of the Bush administration and backing amnesty and cap and trade. Sometimes he failed, as he did with opposing the Bush tax cuts. Other times he succeeded, as he did with his efforts to stop drilling in ANWR. We can be grateful that, due to the poor economy, gas prices are beneath their $4.00 + a gallon highs from two years ago. But the price of gas would be far lower if McCain hadn’t been a cheerleader against using America’s resources. His pandering to the far left on energy is taking money out of the wallets of average Arizonans, and voters should respond by making him feel their pain.