TO: Interested Parties
FR: Max Croes, Kirkpatrick for Arizona
RE: How McCain’s Crass Political Decision(s) on Trump Will Cost Him the US Senate Race
DA: October 12, 2016
Executive Summary: For countless months, Arizona voters and national observers wondered aloud why John McCain would tolerate both personal humiliation and the disgraceful, despicable comments being made by GOP nominee Donald Trump and still support his candidacy. To anyone who can read the cross-tabs of a poll, the answer was obvious—an attempt to get through the primary and now ultimately win the general election, John McCain must win an overwhelming majority of Trump supporters, many of whom are predisposed to dislike his flip-flops on key ideological issues, and who also view him as the epitome of the Washington Establishment – the very essence of what the core Trump base disdains.
The single guiding factor that has driven John McCain’s decision-making in his re-election campaign is that he cannot win a primary or a general election in Arizona without the backing of Trump’s substantial and hyper-motivated bloc of Republican voters. But by trying to please everyone, he now pleases no one.
KEY POINTS ON IMPACT OF McCAIN’S ILL-TIMED “CHANGE OF HEART”
McCain’s Stated “Tipping Point” for Dumping Trump is Too Transparently Self-Serving to Fool Independent/Moderate Voters. The moderate and independent voters who are the target of McCain’s cynical calculation to ditch Donald Trump are not stupid, nor do they understand why McCain stood with Trump through so many disgusting, despicable episodes prior to the release of the 2005 tape.
- McCain said he couldn’t support Trump anymore because of his “statements about women”—something McCain tolerated repeatedly. In defending his turn on Trump, McCain said Trump’s language and behavior were “not an acceptable approach to women in our society.” Yet Trump has been exposed for his seemingly endless history of sexist, misogynistic comments and behavior for the entire year. The moderate and independent voters McCain is targeting with his “sincere change of heart” have long been aware and offended by Trump’s mistreatment of women.
- Media reports and commentary all agree that McCain’s action is a purely political calculation. Even columnists who now praise him for finally doing the right thing note that McCain did so to “save his own political skin.” In reporting on his about-face, Politico noted “McCain made the calculation that it’s worth divorcing Trump as he gets hammered by his opponent.”
- Polling shows cutting Trump loose generates anger from the base, no credit. Because of the transparent nature of the nakedly political calculation Republicans like McCain have made recently to dump Trump, swing voters are actually no more likely to support a GOP candidate that takes such a step. According to the Washington Post, “polling also suggests cutting Trump loose, in addition to angering the base, may not earn a GOP lawmaker much credit from swing voters.”
McCain Promised His Backing to Trump’s Supporters Repeatedly and Unequivocally—Far Too Strongly to Simply Walk Away 30 Days Out. Despite his repeated tightrope walk, including occasional attempts to distance himself from certain Trump comments to mollify moderate and independent voters appalled by the GOP nominee’s words and actions, John McCain repeated his endorsement of Donald Trump more than 60 times. Regardless of what Trump said or did, McCain ultimately reassured Trump’s supporters that he was supporting his candidacy in the end.
- In the face of widespread speculation that he would dump Trump after the Arizona primary, McCain promised he wouldn’t. “[Trump’s] stinging personal criticism has both parties speculating that McCain will finally blow his top once he dispatches his conservative challenger in a primary election on Tuesday. Don’t count on it. No matter the magnitude of his victory against Republican Kelli Ward — and McCain is favored to win easily — McCain made clear last week that there will be no general election turn against his party’s bombastic nominee.”
Backlash Against McCain from Core Trump Supporters is Real, And They Are Hyper-Motivated. After breaking what was considered an ironclad promise not to turn on Donald Trump in the general election, there are many signs abound of a vocal and growing backlash against McCain from those who were willing to vote for him despite reservations, but now feel completely betrayed.
- Arizona Backlash Versus McCain Front & Center in New York Times Feature Story: “For GOP Candidates, Renouncing Trump Carries Dire Risks”
Paula Barche Rupnik, a Republican from Scottsdale, Ariz., was planning to vote for Senator John McCain in his re-election campaign this year. But she changed her mind this weekend, after he rescinded his support for Donald J. Trump.
Instead, she plans to split her ticket, voting for Mr. Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, but for Mr. McCain’s Democratic challenger, Representative Ann Kirkpatrick.
She has never voted for a Democrat before.
“I want to send a message to John McCain,” said Ms. Rupnik, 58, a consultant for an essential oils company. “If he doesn’t get elected, the American people that support Trump are going to blame it on those Republicans who didn’t support him.”
- Trump Himself Attacked John McCain, Telling His Supporters That He Regrets Endorsing Him in the August Primary, Wishes He’d Backed Kelli Ward. After taking to Twitter to excoriate McCain’s breaking of his promise to support him through the general election, Donald Trump appeared on “The O’Reilly Factor” last night, telling his supporters in no uncertain terms that he regrets supporting John McCain, and wishes he had endorsed McCain’s primary opponent, Kelli Ward. Between Twitter and O’Reilly, Trump communicated his anti-McCain message to 10’s of millions of core GOP base voters.
- Mike Pence on NBC Nightly News: Very Disappointed in McCain’s Turning on GOP Nominee. Again addressing the backlash being faced by many vulnerable GOPers for turning on Trump after having stuck with him – and promised to stick with him – for so long, Mike Pence specifically called out McCain, expressing his strong disappointment for the actions of McCain and other establishment Republicans, such as House Speaker Paul Ryan.
- Substantial Spike in Online Traffic By #NeverMcCain Movement, Kelli Ward Write-In Advocates. Since McCain’s announcement that he was turning against Donald Trump, backlash from Trump supporters and anti-McCain voters has been swift and vocal. This includes a spike in Tweets bearing the #NeverMcCain hashtag, increased online traffic attacking McCain that mention or come from @KelliWardAZ, and substantial buzz about punishing McCain’s betrayal of core GOP voters by refusing to vote or writing in Kelli Ward.
McCain’s Numbers Correlate Directly with Consolidating Support From Recalcitrant Ward & Trump Voters—So Will His Fall. On Monday night, McCain boasted about public polling numbers built solely on his name recognition. McCain’s comments ignore the reality that Arizona’s senate race was essentially a dead heat for many months—and that his statement doesn’t reflect his now broken promise to support Trump through the general election.
- Polling up until the primary, including a late-August PPP poll showing a 43-43 tie, had McCain getting a substantially lower percentage of Republican voters, both supporters of Donald Trump and the 48.6% of Arizona GOP primary voters that cast a ballot against McCain in the U.S. Senate primary.
- Subsequent public polling showed McCain’s post-primary bump came from bringing aboard core Republican base voters who are ardent Trump supporters and former hold-outs who had voted for Kelli Ward in the primary—the exact group of people that McCain’s turn against Donald Trump has so enraged.