Former congressman and talk radio host J.D. Hayworth will appeal to the GOP’s conservative base, but he’ll need to tap into wallets around the state before he can mount a serious challenge to Republican Sen. John McCain, political scientists say.
“He clearly has a following, and his message resonates with many people in Arizona,” said Fred Solop, professor and chair of Northern Arizona University’s Politics and International Affairs Department. “On the other side, his ability to fundraise is going to really be tested here.”
When Hayworth formally announced his candidacy Feb. 15 outside his north Phoenix campaign headquarters, McCain’s campaign account already contained more than $5 million, according to the Federal Election Commission.
Hayworth told supporters that voters should look at where that money comes from.
“He has millions from banks, from lobbyists, from those with business before him,” he said. “But we are the ones with the momentum, and no amount of money can stop our conservative movement.”
Barbara Norrander, a University of Arizona political science professor, said Hayworth will need money to build momentum. While he represented a Phoenix-area congressional district for six terms before losing in 2006 and later hosted a talk radio show in the Valley, Hayworth lacks name recognition in places such as Tucson.
“He’s going to have to make a lot of efforts to get his name out, because people don’t know who he is down here,” she said.
Hayworth is looking to a statewide tour and endorsements from prominent Republicans such as Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio to raise his statewide profile and boost fundraising.
“Sometimes they say J.D. and I are one-issue candidates, but that’s garbage,” Arpaio told the crowd. “We do want to fight the illegal immigration problem, secure the borders, and he will do it.”
Earlier this month, Arpaio launched a national fundraising effort on Hayworth’s behalf with an appeal to all of his own donors, citing McCain’s 2007 proposal for comprehensive immigration reform as evidence of his divergence from conservative principles.
McCain spokesman Brian Rogers said McCain is committed to securing the border and other issues important to conservatives.
“At the end of the day, he’s confident that he’ll gain the continued trust of Arizonans, as he has in the past,” Rogers said.
Patrick Kenney, an Arizona State University political science professor, said financial strategy is always important, but it is especially vital for the party out of power.
“Hayworth definitely will drain some resources off of Republican donors who might be able to give that money to someone else,” Kenney said. “Even within the state, it’s a challenge. You’ve got a governor’s race going on, a lot of House races going on. Their money will be split as a result of him entering the primary.”
Solop said there is no way of knowing whether any Hayworth donors would have spent that money on other campaigns, but regardless, Hayworth will probably speak to and draw out voters who would otherwise stay home.
“We usually see low participation in primaries, so people that feel very strongly about a candidate have a very large voice in these races,” he said.