JONATHAN J. COOPER, Associated Press: Defeated just two years ago as the Republican presidential candidate and with his bonafides as a true conservative again being challenged, John McCain finds himself in a struggle to get even his party's nomination for another term in the Senate.
Many conservatives and Tea Party activists are lining up behind Republican challenger and former talk radio host J.D. Hayworth, reflecting a rising tide of voter frustration with incumbent politicians. Only 40 percent of Arizonans have a favorable view of McCain's job performance.
Faced with his toughest re-election battle ever, McCain has moved to the right on several hot-button issues, like gays in the military and climate change, and has built a campaign war chest of more than $5 million. Former running mate Sarah Palin and newly elected Republican Sen. Scott Brown, both popular with conservatives, are pitching in.
Hayworth, who will officially launch his campaign Monday, began using his talk show on conservative radio station KFYI to drum up opposition to McCain.
"You have a consistent conservative challenger and an incumbent who calls himself a maverick but in fact is a moderate," Hayworth said, outlining what he views as the central choice for conservative GOP primary voters in August.
McCain is launching his own statewide tour, complete with visits next month from Palin and Brown, who already has recorded calls asking Republicans to support McCain.
The four-term senator and his allies also are taking aim at Hayworth. In December, they filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission arguing that the talk show host was a de facto candidate and his radio station was providing a corporate gift by allowing him to campaign on the air. And they're attacking Hayworth's 12-year record as a congressman representing the eastern suburbs of Phoenix.
"When Arizona voters are reminded of Mr. Hayworth's long record in Washington of liberal spending and questionable ethics, he will be defeated again just as he was in 2006," said McCain campaign spokesman Brian Rogers.
Democrat Harry Mitchell defeated Hayworth four years ago, winning the GOP-dominated district amid a rough national climate for Republicans and questions about Hayworth's dealings with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. (More)