How did John McCain beat JD Hayworth?
By Rachel Alexander
John McCain easily beat JD Hayworth in the Republican primary for Senate this year, but the reason why is disturbing. The vast majority of the money he spent, $18 million out of a total of almost $24 million, came from contributions to his prior presidential campaign, not this Senate campaign. Many people who contributed to his presidential campaign – including myself – contributed because of Sarah Palin, not McCain. To have our money used against a better conservative candidate we prefer in a different race is despicable. It was even more insulting for me personally since my money was used by McCain's staffers (who proudly refer to themselves as the "McCain Mafia") in vicious personal attacks against me, as Director of Social Media for Hayworth's campaign. By the end of the campaign, I had blocked almost every one of them on Twitter due to reprehensible behavior that was condoned (I believe encouraged) by their boss.
In contrast, Hayworth spent only $2.4 million. It was difficult for him to raise money because McCain had already locked in many high-level donors through threats and strong-arming. The McCain Mafia would accost potential contributors by warning them, "The Senator would be very disappointed if you did not contribute the full amount ($2,400 in the primary, or $4,800 per couple)."
In addition to the advantage of a massive warchest funded largely by conservatives who opposed him, there were three other dishonest things McCain did to win. First of all, he ran as a conservative. He spent the vast majority of his money on TV ads that played nonstop around the clock portraying himself as a border security hawk. One of the misleading spots showed him walking along the border fence with the second most popular Sheriff in the state.
In reality, McCain's record is terrible. He has an 81% lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union, which dipped to its lowest ever in 2008, 63%, due to voting for the billion dollar pork TARP bailouts. The main bills he has co-sponsored were left-leaning bills with Democrats: Cap and Trade with Joe Lieberman, amnesty with Ted Kennedy, and an assault on free speech with Russ Feingold.
McCain's second disturbing tactic was to aggressively smear JD Hayworth. He went after JD Hayworth in cruel ways vastly different from the soft approach he took with Obama. If McCain had ran against Obama as hard as he ran against JD, he would probably be president now. He falsely portrayed Hayworth as a liberal. It would be laughable if it hadn't been so effective. Because McCain could afford to run TV ads round the clock on Arizona's TV stations, he was able to fool a majority of Arizona's Republicans and Independents into believing he was the conservative in the race. In reality, JD Hayworth has a 98% lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union over his 12 years in Congress – the same score as the most conservative member of the Senate, Jim DeMint! Over 16 Tea Parties, located mostly in Arizona, endorsed Hayworth. Virtually no Tea Parties endorsed McCain or the third Republican candidate, Jim Deakin.
Since McCain couldn't beat Hayworth substantively on the issues, he brought up red herrings instead. He accused Hayworth of being a big pork barrel spender and earmarker, blaming him for bills like the Bridge to Nowhere in Alaska. The truth is that Hayworth wasn't behind any of those pork earmarks – those were regular bills (transportation, border security, appropriations, etc.) where other members of Congress had tacked on pork or earmarks. Contrast this with McCain's votes for the billion dollar pork TARP bailouts, and the military base earmarks McCain has brought home for Arizona and it is clear who the real porker/earmarker is. But due to Hayworth's lack of money, he was not able to get the truth out to enough voters.
McCain spent millions on a TV commercial blasting Hayworth as a fiscal hypocrite for appearing in an infomercial for free government grants. Again, JD did not have the money to get the full story out to the voters. The truth is that JD did hundreds of commercials as a radio talkshow host for a variety of businesses, and the prior spokesman for the grant company was former Representative JC Watts, who assured Hayworth it was a legitimate venture. McCain never attacked JC Watts. Hayworth was not advertising to expand government grants, he was simply advertising how to apply for them – just like one might advertise for school vouchers or tax credits. Conservatives may not agree with government set asides, but as long as we're stuck with the redistribution system, we might as well take advantage of every tax break we can. The real hypocrisy is that McCain has lengthy information posted on his website on how to apply for free government grant money.
Third, McCain threatened and shook down prominent conservatives into endorsing him. He enlisted Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney to campaign in Arizona for him. Insiders knew their campaigning was fake, since Mitt Romney had a bitter relationship with McCain during the presidential campaign, and Palin had not spoken to McCain in over a year since the presidential election. At first she wouldn't even take his phone calls. She notably failed to tweet about her visit even as she was tweeting about a concurrent trip to Searchlight, Nevada for a Tea Party rally against Harry Reid. She reportedly refused to come out and campaign a second time for him.
McCain threatened anyone with talent from working for Hayworth. Many well-respected political consultants turned down campaign positions on the Hayworth campaign due to threats to their careers from the McCain Mafia. I was threatened three times by the McCain Mafia, but fortunately the latter two threats were ineffective, since I had left my government position working for a politician, so my employment could not be put in jeopardy. As a result, the Hayworth team had a campaign staff of 10 to the McCain staff of 24.
National Review and Newsmax endorsed McCain, no doubt due to their publishers or managements' close ties to McCain. Mark Levin, who has written numerous articles for National Review exposing McCain's liberal record, wrote a response objecting to their flawed endorsement. McCain suckered Arizona Right to Life PAC, the NRA, and Citizens Against Government Waste into endorsing him even though Hayworth had higher ratings from them, and even though the vast majority of their constituents as well as most of their leadership preferred Hayworth. Much of their former leadership came out and endorsed Hayworth.
McCain and his team told countless prominent conservatives in Arizona who had endorsed him in the presidential general election that he was transferring their endorsements to the Senate race – even if those conservatives preferred Hayworth. When some of those conservatives objected, McCain's Mafia was vicious in their responses and forced many of them to back down. Some finally spoke up and defied McCain anyways, backing Hayworth.
There were additional factors that worked to McCain's advantage. One that undoubtedly helped was his POW status. It is difficult for some voters – particularly veterans – to fathom voting a POW out of office. Unlike other vulnerable Republican incumbents like Bob Bennett of Utah, McCain had this built-in protection, which he never ceased to mention in speeches. He failed to mention his terrible history of voting against veterans.
A third Republican candidate ran as a conservative and took votes away from Hayworth, Jim Deakin. Although Deakin had zero experience in politics, raised barely any money, and had a home in foreclosure proceedings, he refused to drop out of the race. As of the time this article is being written, with only a few thousand votes left to count, Deakin has garnered almost 12% of the vote.
The media wholeheartedly supported McCain, purposely giving scant coverage to the race – one of the hottest U.S. Senate races in the country – yet the talkshows had McCain as a guest every week to discuss other things. Even Fox News sold out, due to owner Rupert Murdoch's close friendship with McCain. McCain appeared on Fox News every week discussing everything but the race, sounding tough on border security with his past history of co-sponsoring amnesty with Ted Kennedy mostly overlooked. The print press limited its coverage of the race to mostly negative news about Hayworth.
When you do the math (there will be a few thousand more votes coming in after this article is written, so this number may drop ever so slightly) McCain paid $80 for each vote. What a champion of "campaign finance reform."
McCain isn't done spending money in this race. Many conservatives and Tea Partiers in Arizona are outraged and have decided to support a third party candidate. There is a Libertarian candidate, David Nolan, and a fairly conservative independent write-in candidate, Ian Gilyeat. Other JD supporters will just not vote, or will write in JD Hayworth.
This race will go down in history as one of the sleaziest bought out campaigns ever – John McCain's legacy.
Rachel Alexander and her brother Andrew are co-Editors of Intellectual Conservative. Rachel is an attorney and social media consultant and runs RightNowSocialMedia.com. She lives in Phoenix, Arizona and has been published in the American Spectator, Townhall.com, Fox News, NewsMax, Accuracy in Media, The Americano, ParcBench, and other publications.