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McCain Persuaded Club for Growth to Stay Out of Arizona

Arizonans also go to the polls today, but the much anticipated GOP Senate primary race between Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and former Rep. J. D. Hayworth (R-Ariz.) hasn’t materialized into the close contest that many, including McCain, feared it might have. One reason it never got dicey for McCain, however, might have had to do with his efforts to court the Club for Growth, an anti-tax, anti-spending organization with a reputation for purging moderate Republicans, in order to keep the group from picking sides in the race:

McCain sought out leaders of the organization. He knew they might still be unhappy about his vote against the Bush tax cuts and disagreed with him on campaign finance reform. But he argued that, under Obama, government spending was now the big issue, and said that on that issue he had a solid conservative record compatible with theirs.

McCain also knew that Hayworth was handicapped in portraying himself as a small-government conservative because of his record of supporting earmarks as a member of the House. McCain attacked Hayworth as a pork-barrel spender and lobbyist, challenging his posture as a Washington outsider. The Club for Growth stayed out of Arizona.

McCain has shifted far right since returning to the Senate after his failed presidential bid, with journalists and pundits positing no shortage of explanations for the transformation. It’ll be a telling natural experiment to see whether he becomes more receptive to reengaging on his pet bipartisan issues, like immigration reform and climate change, once he puts his primary challenge in the rearview mirror.

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