Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain said Wednesday that he's "absolutely" leaning toward running for reelection to the Senate in 2016 and that he'll be the "number one target of the tea partiers" if he does decide to run again.
"You have to hope for the best and prepare for the worst," McCain told msnbc when asked whether he was anticipating a tea party challenge. "I definitely think that I would have to absolutely anticipate a tea party candidate or two or three ... everybody tells me that I'm the number one target of the tea partiers."
"I definitely think that I would have to absolutely anticipate a tea party candidate or two or three ... everybody tells me that I'm the number one target of the tea partiers."'
McCain, who will be 80 years old in 2016, said he's already begun laying the groundwork for his reelection campaign.
"We've already talked with finance people in the state, we've already talked to different groups and organizations ranging from the Arizona Chamber to the Southern Arizona Defense Alliance to build the coalitions we need to build," McCain said.
In 2010, two years after his second failed presidential bid, McCain beat back a primary challenge from J.D. Hayworth, a former congressman and conservative radio host.
A McCain reelection campaign would be something of a relief for Republicans hoping to keep the upper chamber in GOP hands in 2016. While they swept into power this year, they're defending seats in many Democratic-leaning and swing states in the next election cycle. Arizona, with an increasing Hispanic population, has become more competitive in recent years; if McCain were to retire, the battle for an open seat would be much more favorable for Democrats.