It’s a strategy straight from the Senate Republicans’ 1996 playbook. With his presidential candidate at risk off a historic loss, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is openly running now just to be a check on Hillary Clinton’s White House.
In a new campaign video, McCain makes the most explicit concession yet to voters that re-electing him will be necessary to combat the growing chance that Trump loses in November and Clinton is elected president.
“My opponent Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick is a good person,” McCain said. “But, if Hillary Clinton is elected president, Arizona will need a senator who will act as a check, not a rubber stamp to the White House.”
McCain’s appeal is identical to the one Republican senators made in 1996 when their nominee Bob Dole was floundering and it was growing increasingly clear that linking their futures to him was more of a suicide pact than it was helpful.
“Ann Kirkpatrick won’t oppose higher taxes, she won’t oppose more federal spending and she won’t impose increased debts that slow economic growth,” McCain said. “I will.”
“She won’t exercise her right to advise and consent on presidential appointments to make sure we don’t have the wrong people in important jobs or Supreme Court justices who will take the courts to liberal extremes,” McCain said. “I will.”
Despite McCain’s self-proclaimed maverick ways, the Arizona senator has turned a mostly blind eye to Trump this election cycle. As he faced down a conservative primary challenger, McCain avoided the red hot takedowns of Trump that some expected from him in an effort not to alienate his base back home. Instead, McCain had sought only to condemn Trump in extreme circumstances, for instance when Trump attacked a Gold Star family. Otherwise, it seems McCain is just going to pretend he is already gone.
In his campaign video, McCain doesn’t even mention Trump. All he says is “whether you are satisfied or dissatisfied with your choices for president, this election is an important one.”
This video may be the clearest indication yet that Senate Republicans are beginning to realize that Trump is so hopeless that it’s time to cut their losses and just run as if Clinton has already won.