We asked the campaign of former Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R-AZ), who is challenging Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) in the Republican primary, for comment on McCain’s statement on Meet The Press that Americans were “misled” on the TARP bailout, and that it wasn’t known beforehand that the money would be going to firms on Wall Street. Their answer: McCain “simply claims that he was a patsy.”
“Now that he is getting roundly criticized by conservatives in Arizona and across the country, he has found a convenient bogeyman that he didn’t mention at the time. And it’s yet another example of his transparent election-year conversion to try to fool Republican primary voters in this state,” said Hayworth spokesman Jason Rose. “On one hand, he is selling himself, as we speak, in campaign ads, for his experience in Washington as being an incredible asset for Arizona. Well, is there any better example of such an erroneous claim than this statement that he made yesterday on Meet The Press?”“And what else, too, is that there were many Republicans at the time, overwhelming numbers of Republicans that said this is wrong and didn’t vote for it. John McCain was not one of those people,” said Rose. “And now he’s trying to find an excuse and to blame someone else for his vote, rather than take responsibility for it. Instead he simply claims that he was a patsy.”
I asked Rose whether he thought McCain was being intentionally untruthful. “All I can say is, go back and look at the record in September and October of ’08. Did he say anything along these lines? No,” said Rose. “The only thing that he said was, this bill was an obscenity because it includes $150 billion in pork — and then proceeded to vote for it, anyway.”
I also asked Rose about an exchange in which David Gregory asked McCain whether he thought Hayworth was going too far in saying that Obama has a “socialist” agenda. McCain’s eventual answer, after it was posed repeatedly by Gregory: “I think they’re governing from the left on a broad variety of issues, but I’ll let others speak for themselves. I, I have enough time taking care of my own misstatements.”
“This is the latest example of why conservatives are so frustrated with John McCain and flocking to J.D. Hayworth,” said Rose. “He is running a much tougher campaign, describe by others as ‘scorched earth,’ against a conservative like J.D. Hayworth, than he ever ran against a liberal like Barack Obama. That is why conservatives are so frustrated. J.D. Hayworth described Obama’s agenda as what it was, and John McCain just couldn’t bring himself to criticize his friends on the left.”
The Republican primary will be held on August 24. A Rasmussen poll from late January gave McCain a lead 53%-31% over Hayworth. This suggests that Hayworth definitely has an uphill climb, but also that McCain is not completely guaranteed his re-election. After all, the Republican Party’s recent nominee for President is only just slightly over the 50 percent mark, and this is before the campaign has really commenced in earnest.