The results of the 2016 Arizona and Florida primaries are in, and both John McCain and Marco Rubio were able to beat their respective challengers. The two Republicans scored decisive wins despite not totally embracing Donald Trump, who is very popular with the base in their states.
Moreover, the two senators had tense moments with the Trump campaign in the past fourteen months so a full embrace might have appeared disingenuous.
During the Republican presidential primaries, Trump and Rubio hurled insults at each other that made headlines. The duo went down in the mud and questioned each other’s manhood. Trump bashed Senator McCain for being a loser because he was captured and tortured during the Vietnam War.
Trump, who had refused to endorse the politician from Arizona, eventually did so in a very timid fashion at a campaign rally. As the dates of the Arizona and Florida primaries approached, the seasoned politicians revealed that they supported the nominee of their party and never mentioned Trump by name.
Kelly Ayotte, the junior United States Senator from New Hampshire, is doing the same dance; she is not embracing Trump, but she is not disavowing him either.
The outcome of the Arizona primary is not at all surprising; McCain led his controversial opponent, former state Sen. Kelli Ward, in the polls by double digits for several months.
Ward, who made disturbing comments about the war hero’s health and age, never stood a chance because she received no support from the Republican establishment. Ward had little staff and money to run on, while a super PAC backing McCain, Arizona Grassroots Action PAC, spent $2.7 million during the primary. Moreover, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce contributed another $1.2 million.
While Ward had months to get her campaign on the ground, the Arizona senator, and his supporters started preparing for his reelection two years ago. McCain won his primary election with 55 percent of the GOP vote to Ward’s 35 percent. Jon Seaton, a GOP operative, who worked on McCain’s Arizona Grassroots Action PAC, said:
“Regardless of opponent, this was always going to be a tough race. It’s the reason we started laying the groundwork so early. A segment of the Arizona primary electorate opposes John McCain almost no matter who he’s running against.”
McCain is now getting ready for the general election where he will face Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, who is determined to link him to Trump. Kirkpatrick has been telling voters that McCain will not stand up for Arizona because he is afraid of Mr. Trump
However, this is not working, a CNN poll released last week had the Arizona senator up by 13 points. McCain told the media:
“There’s no reason to do that. They all know me. Everybody in Arizona really knows me unless they just moved in.”
There are some similarities with what happened in the Florida primary. Rubio, who was busy running for president, announced his decision to seek reelection about two months ago.
The freshman senator, who loathes his job, destroyed his opponent. The Trump-inspired real estate mogul Carlos Beruff brought in 19 percent of the votes while Rubio collected 71 percentage points in Tuesday’s contest.
Rubio will face Florida Congressman Patrick Murphy, who won the Democratic nomination to run for the Senate – by a margin of 59 to 18 percentage points. Murphy beat fellow Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson, and Pam Keith.
While Mccain has little to worry about, it will be a nail-biter for Rubio and Murphy in November. Many predict that the Florida race will be expensive and dirty. In his victory speech, Murphy bashed Rubio for leaving his Senate seat to run for president, and for making the surprise revelation on CNN this Monday that he is not pledging to serve a full six-year term if he wins re-election. Rubio is reportedly planning to run for president in 2020. Murphy said:
“I will serve a full six-year term for the people of Florida.”
Rubio hit back by calling Murphy the “handpicked choice of the entire Democratic party establishment.” Rubio added:
“Between someone who has achieved things on behalf of our state… and someone who feels entitled to the job because everything he’s ever wanted has been given to him before. He likes to call himself a centrist and a moderate. Murphy is nothing more than an old-fashioned liberal.”
Murphy, who has received substantial contributions from his father, has a reserve of $8 million that will be dedicated to general election ads.