Sen. John McCain, first elected in 1986 after spending four years in the House and then rising to the peak of political party politics by winning the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, is likely headed for a competitive re-election next year. And, his strongest opponent may not even be a Democrat.
This week, Representatives Matt Salmon (R-AZ-5) and David Schweikert (R-AZ-6) held a meeting; one that could prove to be of great importance fast forwarding to their state’s August 2016 Republican primary. Both members have said publicly that they are considering launching an intra-party challenge to Sen. McCain.
The session apparently produced at least one major point of agreement. That is, both will not enter the race. They correctly reason that two congressmen jumping into the contest will guarantee McCain victory. This is particularly true in a plurality nomination state like Arizona, because the anti-incumbent vote will be split several ways, allowing the target to win with a mere base vote sometimes far under the 50 percent threshold. The pair has not yet agreed upon which man will run, only that it will be one.
The history of right-of-center challenges to more establishment political figures suggests a narrow path to victory, but part of the long odds calculation is that the conservative activists rarely coalesce to form a cohesive election strategy.
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