Publicly, John McCain insists Donald Trump will have a negligible effect on his campaign for reelection. But behind closed doors at a fundraiser in Arizona last month, the Republican senator and two-time presidential hopeful offered a far more dire assessment to his supporters. "If Donald Trump is at the top of the ticket, here in Arizona, with over 30 percent of the vote being the Hispanic vote, no doubt that this may be the race of my life," McCain said, according to a recording of the event obtained by POLITICO. "If you listen or watch Hispanic media in the state and in the country, you will see that it is all anti-Trump. The Hispanic community is roused and angry in a way that I've never seen in 30 years."
Looking at the 2016 Senate elections, Democrats have an obvious goal: a net gain of five seats would give the party its majority back. And as things stand, Dems feel they have a credible shot.
It's probably best to think about the landscape in tiers. There are several states in which Dems are optimistic about flipping red seats to blue seats: Illinois, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania. The second tier features seats currently held by Republicans that could be quite competitive if the prevailing political winds shift in Democrats' favor: North Carolina, Iowa, and Missouri.
And then there's John McCain, whose lock on his Arizona seat has been a foregone conclusion for decades, but who's feeling quite a bit of anxiety right now about his 2016 odds. Politico reported overnight:
According to the Politico report, McCain made the comments at an April 8 event. Despite his public confidence, he conceded when talking to supporters behind closed doors, "[T]his is going to be a tough campaign for me" -- largely because of his party's presidential nominee.
Two weeks after the event, McCain announced he will skip this year's Republican National Convention, insisting he's "always done that when I'm up." (Unfortunately for the senator, that claim is plainly untrue.)
All of which leads to a dynamic in which it's hard to know just what to make of McCain's chances, and what "tier" he belongs in.
On the one hand, the longtime incumbent has never faced a serious re-election challenge; he has plenty of money; and his relationship with Arizona's Latino population is vastly better than Trump's.
But on the other hand, as we discussed a month ago, the senator is not nearly as popular in Arizona as he once was, and there's at least some evidence that Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D) is prepared to give the incumbent the toughest race he's ever seen.
Before he can even reach a difficult general election, McCain also faces an Aug. 30 primary. Odds are, he'll prevail, but the fact that he's facing a challenge at all is a reminder about his vulnerability.
Is it any wonder the Republican senator is telling supporters how worried he is?