From The Hill
John McCain is in a precarious spot in what he’s called his toughest reelection bid to date. And he can thank Donald Trump.
The Republican senator from Arizona on Monday ripped into Trump in a nearly 700-word, emotionally charged rebuke of the GOP presidential candidate’s attack on Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the Muslim parents of a U.S. soldier killed in Iraq.
“In the end, I am morally bound to speak only to the things that command my allegiance, and to which I have dedicated my life’s work: the Republican Party, and more importantly, the United States of America,” McCain said in his statement.
“It is time for Donald Trump to set the example for our country and the future of the Republican Party. While our Party has bestowed upon him the nomination, it is not accompanied by unfettered license to defame those who are the best among us.”
It’s just the latest break between Trump and McCain, who must defeat a Republican primary challenger just to get to the general election, where polls suggest he’ll face a tight race, probably against Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz.).
Arizona has been a safe state for Republican presidential candidates, but polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton within striking distance of Trump, whose opposition to illegal immigration boosts him with some Arizonans but could be a hindrance with a rising number of Hispanic voters.
That’s bad news for McCain, who is seeking a sixth term in what looks to be a tough election year environment for Republicans.
McCain has endorsed Trump, but like several other vulnerable GOP senators, he’s also repeatedly sought to distance himself from a series of controversial remarks by the GOP nominee.
“It’s the challenge everyone knew we would face — being put in the constant position of having to respond to false, insensitive or reckless statements — sometimes all three wrapped in one,” said one top GOP campaign operative who openly speculated whether the senator would revoke his endorsement of Trump.
“We can all hope that this one is the last one, but deep down none of us believe that,” the source said. “The only safe bet is a clean break, and that option looks more attractive each day.”
McCain’s fellow Arizona senator, Republican Jeff Flake, hasn’t endorsed Trump. At a meeting of Senate Republicans last month, Trump criticized Flake, who had to remind the nominee that he wasn’t up for reelection this year.
On Monday, Flake didn’t rule out an endorsement of Trump, but said the businessman would have to move toward him on policy, including immigration.
Because McCain is up for reelection, he’s in a much tougher spot.
Early voting in the GOP primary in Arizona starts in two days, and McCain’s opponent, former state Sen. Kelli Ward (R), is already hitting the incumbent for his comments about Trump.
“The Khan controversy is a cynical political stunt cooked up by the Clinton Establishment, and, sadly, John McCain has fallen right into it,” she said on Monday. “McCain’s statement today makes clear that he really wants Hillary Clinton in the White House, and his tepid ‘support’ for Trump is only disingenuous pandering.”
That sentiment was echoed by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who in an interview with The Washington Post said McCain would have kept “his mouth shut” if he weren’t running for reelection.
The Arizona GOP primary is on Aug. 30.
McCain, the Republican Party’s presidential nominee just eight years ago, has sometimes come under criticism from grassroots conservatives, particularly over immigration.
When he last ran for reelection, in 2010, he tacked hard to the right on immigration, visiting a wall on the border in one memorable ad.
Since then, however, he worked to forge a compromise on immigration reform in the Senate in 2013.
In 2016, with Trump’s emphasis on immigration and toxic polling numbers with Hispanics, the path McCain is seeking to walk is even more difficult.
Read Full Story At The Hill