Dr. Kelli Ward is a former Arizona state senator who is running in the Republican primary against John McCain. She’s a strong Second Amendment supporter, and a political outsider to Washington, D.C. Her campaign is focusing on a number of issues, one being that it’s time for John McCain to leave office, and she’s contrasting herself with the Senator on the Second Amendment . . .
John McCain has been a reliable “I support the Second Amendment, but” Senator. He has supported bans on “assault weapons”. He supported severe restrictions on gun shows, which would have effectively destroyed the popular gun culture political and networking tool. He supported “universal background checks” designed as a step toward universal gun registration. Coincidentally, he recently backed off of the universal background check issue, as the primary nears. It’s a common tactic for politicians to move toward their base for the primary, then away from it for the general election.
Kelli Ward spent about three hours Saturday at a gun show that was being held in Yuma at the Civic Center where she was warmly received. Second Amendment supporters are one of her strongest constituencies and they haven’t been happy with McCain who’s been in office for nearly 30 years.
I briefly spoke with Dr. Ward at a meet and greet in Yuma last Friday. She was energetic, enthusiastic, and friendly. These are all great qualities in a candidate. I last saw John McCain close up about two years ago. He was also energetic and mentally sharp. At the time he was mentoring Jeff Flake during his senate race. McCain will be 80 years old in a couple of months.
The Republican base isn’t happy with John McCain, so an outsider like Dr. Ward has a chance. As in the presidential primary, there are multiple opponents who oppose the senior Senator, splitting the anti-McCain vote. A PPP poll shows the situation as of May 17:
McCain is polling at only 39% in the Republican primary field. He’s benefiting from having multiple opponents. Kelli Ward is at 26%, Alex Meluskey at 4%, Scott McBean at 3%, and Clair Van Steenwyk at 2%. 27% are undecided. McCain is very strong among moderates, leading Ward 60-10. But among ‘somewhat conservative’ voters he leads just 34-29, and with ‘very conservative’ ones he’s down 35-28. When you narrow the field down to just a choice between McCain and Ward, it’s a tie at 41%. Ward is polling this competitively at this point despite having only 41% name recognition.
If Dr. Ward consolidates opposition against McCain, she has a serious chance at getting the nomination. Name recognition is the biggest problem for her at this point. And the biggest problem for McCain is…name recognition. His name, record and policy positions are all too well known by conservatives and those who are angered by business as usual in Washington.
Donald Trump has changed electoral politics in the United States. It’s far from clear what will happen in the general election, but Trump’s coattails could be very effective for Dr. Ward, who shares most of his policy positions. The feud between John McCain and Donald Trump would seem to make any coattail effect for him much less likely.
©2016 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.