J.D. Hayworth has been hinting at it for months, and now he is apparently pulling the trigger.
In the past 24 hours, Hayworth, the bombastic (and more than occasionally boorish) former sportscaster who served in Congress for a dozen years, has made it clear that he is in the race to send John McCain back to Arizona after three decades in the United States Congress:
"We will formally announce at a later time, but we're moving forward to challenge John McCain," Hayworth told the Associated Press. "I think we all respect John. I think his place in history is secure. But after close to a quarter-century in Washington, it's time for him to come home."
The impetus for the campaign announcement was Hayworth's resignation from KFYI-AM, where he was employed as a radio talk show host. His ouster from the airwaves was forced, to some degree, by the McCain campaign. Team McCain had argued that while Hayworth had not officially announced a primary challenge, his presumed candidacy meant that Hayworth's daily soapbox at KFYI had violated federal law. Earlier in the week, McCain's team had gone to the FCC to make such a claim.
Despite polls late in 2009 showing McCain and Hayworth in a dead heat, a poll released on Friday by Rasmussen showed McCain well ahead of his primary challenger (53-31). This actually raises more questions than it answers. It is hard to pinpoint a reason why McCain would be doing so dramatically better now than he did in November. The only logical conclusion is that either Rasmussen was off two months ago, or they are off now.
Just the same, McCain is clearly running scared from the former six-term Congressman, who was rarely at a loss for words when he represented the eastern suburbs of Phoenix in the 6th and 5th Congressional districts.
In addition to the FCC complaint filed Wednesday, McCain also took to the air this week in a preemptive strike against Hayworth. The radio ad, to say the least, took dead aim at his presumptive primary opponent:
NARRATOR: We need McCain, standing up to the big shots, slashing spending; saying what no one else has the nerve to say. But, J.D. Hayworth? That's not what Arizona wants. He sounds conservative on the radio, but J.D. was one of the biggest spenders in Congress. In 2005, they passed a bill with six thousand five hundred pork barrel earmarks worth more than twenty four billion dollars. J.D. voted for every one.
Hayworth is not the first Republican to announce a primary challenge to McCain in 2010. Chris Simcox, one of the instrumental figures in the Minuteman anti-immigrant movement, has been in the race for months. The Rasmussen poll showed him gaining little traction, winning just 4% of the vote.
This battle will have plenty of time to marinate: the Arizona primaries are late in the 2010 schedule, not taking place until August 24th.
Democrats, at this point, have to wonder about their ability to take advantage of a potential Hayworth upset. As of the September filing deadline, their leading fundraiser had raised less than $10,000. Their leading candidate, arguably, is Rodney Glassman, a young (in his early 30s) city councilman from Tucson who has some experience on the Hill as a former aide to Rep. Raul Grijalva. Glassman did not get into the race until October, which means that his January FEC filing will tell us a little about his viability against two men (Hayworth and McCain) whose campaigns will no doubt have overflowing coffers.
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