Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) added his name to the list of congressional incumbents who have easily defeated primary challenges by avid Donald Trump supporters this campaign season.
With 97 percent of precincts reporting, McCain defeated state Sen. Kelli Ward with 51.6 percent of the vote to Ward’s 39.2 percent.
The Ward campaign had called polls showing McCain leading by a large margin “sketchy.” Ward slammed the senator as “an octogenarian champion of compromise.”
McCain told supporters at his victory party Tuesday night that Republicans “must be able to resist from a position of strength ideas coming from the next White House, whoever occupies it, that would take the country in the wrong track.”
“It’s imperative Republicans maintain our majorities in Congress. It’s important to America’s future that we have a say over the next president’s appointments to the Supreme Court. It’s important that we offer alternatives to policies that double down on the mistakes of past administrations, that reinforce failure or create new sets of problems,” he said.
“…And it’s just as important that our national security policies are grounded in hard learned lessons but informed by recent experiences, not mired in failed doctrines or in the easy comfort of wishful thinking as has been the case in recent years.”
Ward said in a statement that “sadly, the establishment has won this battle by spending untold millions to call me liberal, dangerous, weak, and, most recently, crazy.”
“After refusing to debate while running a slash and burn campaign devoid of actual ideas, I hope the Senator can rest comfortably with his conscience as he continues to lecture others about civility,” she added. “The Republican party cannot win as a national party if we keep nominating unprincipled career politicians whose only objective is perpetual re-election.”
Also Tuesday, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) smashed his primary opponent, real-estate developer Carlos Beruff, by nearly 72 percent to 18.5 percent.
Beruff accused Rubio last week of doing a “tap dance” on whether or not he supports Trump. “Carlos Beruff has been clear in his support of Donald Trump from the beginning. Marco Rubio? Not so much,” his campaign said in a statement, noting that Beruff supported Trump “100 percent.”
Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus released a statement congratulating McCain and Rubio on their “well-earned victories.”
“Both senators have distinguished themselves as leaders in the Republican Party, and Americans have been well-served by their steadfast commitment to prosperity, security, and freedom,” Priebus said. “I look forward to them winning their general election races and returning to the Senate.”
And earlier this month, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) easily dispatched Paul Nehlen, a Trump-supporting businessman who vowed to “save America from Speaker Ryan’s dangerous globalist agenda.”
Ryan got more than 84 percent of the vote while Nehlen got nearly 16 percent.
Ryan was asked if Nehlen’s resounding defeat was a bellwether for whether Donald Trump was “doomed” in the general election.
“I don’t think it means he’s doomed in November,” Ryan replied, arguing that his strong victory over a primary challenger just reflected his deep local roots. “I say what I mean and I don’t do it in a mean way… that’s why I think I won.”