WASHINGTON — The tea party-aligned Senate Conservatives Fund quickly brought out the knives in response to Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) announcing he would seek a sixth term.
“There are few Republicans who have betrayed our conservative principles more than John McCain,” Senate Conservatives Fund President Ken Cuccinelli wrote in an email to supporters on Tuesday. “He wrote the McCain-Kennedy and ‘Gang of Eight’ immigration bills that offered amnesty to millions of illegal aliens. He voted for the Wall Street bailout, to fund the implementation of Obamacare, for the $600 billion “fiscal cliff” tax hike, and to raise the debt limit 14 different times!”
Cuccinelli continued in the email “John McCain lost his way a long time ago and it’s time to replace him with a strong conservative leader who will support and defend the Constitution.”
There have been rumblings that McCain, who’s closely associated with the establishment wing of the Republican Party, could face a primary challenge if he decided to run for re-election in 2016. Earlier in the year, tea party Reps. Matt Salmon (R-AZ) and David Schweikert (R-AZ) both signaled interest in challenging McCain in the primary. Salmon, in particular, has shown strong interest in challenging McCain.
Senate Conservatives Fund spokeswoman Mary Vought told TPM that it was looking at possible candidates to boost against McCain.
“We have spoken with a number of people in Arizona about the race, including numerous potential candidates,” Vought told TPM. “However, we are not at the point where we have formally interviewed anyone for the purpose of considering an endorsement.”
In 2014 SCF was one of the most enthusiastic backers of prominent tea party challengers to incumbent Republicans like Matt Bevin in Kentucky or state Sen. Chris McDaniel in Mississippi. The group has also publicly warred with establishment Republicans and the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee.
The group closely aligned itself with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) during his push to defund Obamacare that resulted in a government shutdown.
“SCF did not endorse a candidate in the Arizona Republican primary in 2010, but we’re working to find a principled leader we can support in 2016,” Cuccinelli added in the email. “We’re looking for a strong candidate who believes in our principles, has grassroots support, and who can run a winning campaign.”