Af­ter re­ject­ing Trump, McCain nav­i­gates tougher GOP path

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

In his pur­suit of a sixth term, Repub­li­can Sen John McCain re­luc­tantly stood by Don­ald Trump for months de­spite per­sonal in­sults and the bom­bas­tic busi­ness­man’s string of con­tro­ver­sial claims. That tepid sup­port ended ear­lier this month af­ter the re­lease of a 2005 record­ing in which Trump used crude, preda­tory lan­guage to boast about grop­ing women. The Ari­zona law­maker said the GOP pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee’s be­hav­ior and “de­mean­ing com­ments about women and his boasts about sex­ual as­saults” made it im­pos­si­ble to of­fer even con­di­tional sup­port.

Some Repub­li­cans are clearly an­gry. Con­ser­va­tives rou­tinely boo McCain when Trump men­tions his name at ral­lies in Ari­zona, and some are un­will­ing to back his candidacy over his dis­avowal of the nom­i­nee. “It puts us into a very dif­fi­cult po­si­tion be­cause I sup­port the Repub­li­can can­di­dates, but I will not sup­port any­body who will not sup­port our nom­i­nee, Don­ald Trump,” Phoenix res­i­dent Vera An­der­son said this week. “So I will not sup­port McCain.”

Cam­paign ex­pe­ri­ence

The 80-year-old sen­a­tor and two-time pres­i­den­tial can­di­date still has a solid ad­van­tage in polls over Demo­cratic Rep. Ann Kirk­patrick, even as con­ser­va­tive Ari­zona grows more com­pet­i­tive in the pres­i­den­tial race. Demo­crat Hil­lary Clin­ton is in­vest­ing money in the state and dis­patch­ing big-name sur­ro­gates, in­clud­ing first lady Michelle Obama and Ver­mont Sen. Bernie San­ders. McCain has dis­played con­fi­dence, leav­ing Ari­zona to cam­paign for other Repub­li­can Sen­ate can­di­dates in closer races in Penn­syl­va­nia and In­di­ana.

His cam­paign ex­pe­ri­ence - five Sen­ate races, two House races and two pres­i­den­tial bids - shows. Be­fore groups, he’s folksy, cut­ting self-dep­re­cat­ing jokes or nearly po­lit­i­cally in­cor­rect quips to loosen the crowd. He gigs the Marine Corps (McCain was a naval avi­a­tor), tells a well-worn Ir­ish joke (he says it’s the only eth­nic barb he can tell with­out back­lash) and of­ten men­tions his first cam­paign (“dur­ing the Coolidge ad­min­is­tra­tion,” he jests).

Then he swings through his top cam­paign top­ics, not­ing a list of things he’s done for Ari­zona be­fore warn­ing of the grow­ing threats across the globe from Rus­sia, China and the Mid­dle East. He blames the man who van­quished him in 2008 - Pres­i­dent Barack Obama - for many of the world’s prob­lems. The prag­matic sen­a­tor who has worked with Democrats on im­mi­gra­tion took a sur­pris­ing stand on Supreme Court nom­i­nees, pledg­ing this week that Repub­li­cans would unite against any pick from Clin­ton if she be­comes pres­i­dent.

An aide later clar­i­fied that he will ex­am­ine the record of any­one nom­i­nated for the high court and vote for or against that per­son based on their qual­i­fi­ca­tions. McCain has spent most of the year do­ing a del­i­cate dance in of­fer­ing luke­warm sup­port of Trump even af­ter the pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee bashed McCain as a “loser” and “not a war hero” be­cause he was shot down and cap­tured dur­ing the Viet­nam War. The sen­a­tor crit­i­cized Trump for making dis­parag­ing re­marks about NATO, im­mi­grants, Mus­lims and a Gold Star fam­ily who lost a son in Iraq but stuck by him un­til this month.

McCain has grown vis­i­bly frus­trated af­ter re­porters ask him about Trump, and his lat­est strat­egy es­sen­tially is to avoid the me­dia. He’s dodged re­porters from The As­so­ci­ated Press and other out­lets af­ter events and re­fused to an­swer ba­sic ques­tions about the race. Af­ter Trump re­fused to say at the final de­bate whether he will ac­cept the elec­tion re­sults, McCain is­sued a sharp state­ment Thurs­day high­light­ing his 2008 con­ces­sion, say­ing con­grat­u­lat­ing the win­ner and call­ing them “my pres­i­dent” is “the Amer­i­can way.”

— AP

WASHINGTON: In this Jan 7, 2009 file photo, Sen John McCain, R-Ariz, left, and Sen Russ Fein­gold, D-Wis, take part in a news con­fer­ence on Capi­tol Hill.

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