Sen. John McCain (R) has been running in congressional elections in Arizona for a third of a century, and in that time, he’s had exactly zero tough races against Democratic challengers. McCain won the closest general election of his career in his home state by 21 points.
With a record like this, even ambitious Arizona Democrats might steer clear of the longtime incumbent, but as Roll Call reports, the candidate the DSCC recruited has reportedly said yes.
Arizona Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick will challenge Republican Sen. John McCain for Senate, according to a source with knowledge of Kirkpatrick’s plans, giving Democrats a top recruit and a potential pickup opportunity.Kirkpatrick made calls Monday to inform people of her plans, the source told CQ Roll Call. Her bid also opens up Arizona’s 1st District, a GOP-leaning seat that 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney captured by a 3-point margin in 2012.
Kirkpatrick, you’ll recall, was a top target last year, though she persevered anyway, bolstered by her “Boots” ad – one of the cycle’s more memorable Democratic spots.
Realistically, the congresswoman would start the race against McCain as an underdog, but there may be more to this race than appears at the surface.
As popular as McCain is inside the Beltway, the Republican has more than a few skeptics on the far-right. Indeed, one of the closer races McCain has had to endure in Arizona came in 2010 – not in the general election, but in the primary.
It’s widely expected McCain will face at least one competitive GOP rival next year, and given the direction of the party’s radicalized base, it’s entirely possible the senator may face a real fight.
Indeed, recent history has changed Democratic attitudes in races like these – we can all think of elections from the last couple of cycles in which some Democrats faced long odds at the outset, only to see their fortunes improve thanks to right-wing primary results (see Delaware in 2010 and Indiana in 2012, for example).
Put it this way: Kirkpatrick would probably face a tough climb against McCain, but if McCain loses in a primary to Rep. David Schweikert, Kirkpatrick’s odds quickly go from “longshot” to “50-50.”
This isn’t what the DCCC wanted to hear – Kirkpatrick’s district will now be very high on the House Republicans’ pick-up list for 2016 – but it might just create an interesting Senate race.