Sen. John McCain plans to launch new radio and television ads Thursday that blast his primary opponent for supporting special funding requests known as earmarks, his campaign said.
The four-term Arizona senator is in a tough race against former U.S. Rep. J.D. Hayworth, a former talk-radio host who is challenging McCain from the right in the Republican primary.
The ads feature an announcer criticizing Hayworth as “an avid earmarker” in contrast to McCain, who is described as waging “a determined battle against pork barrel spending,” according to a script given to The Associated Press late Wednesday.
McCain spokesman Brian Rogers said the new ads would go up statewide on Thursday. He declined to disclose how much the campaign was spending to broadcast a 30-second television ad and a minute-long radio spot.
Earmarks use federal funds to pay for local projects in lawmakers’ home districts. Fiscal conservatives oppose the practice, saying it breeds corruption and wastes federal tax dollars.
Some Arizona conservatives have long been distrustful of McCain, particularly for his reputation as a “maverick” senator willing to work with Democrats to pass compromise legislation.
Hayworth fanned those flames on his Phoenix-area talk radio show and, more recently, in speeches to Republican clubs and tea party groups around the state. He often criticizes McCain for supporting an immigration reform bill that would have created a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants.
McCain recently repudiated his maverick label and has been hitting Hayworth hard for his support for earmarks during a 12 year-stint in the House, which ended in 2006 when Hayworth lost to Democrat Harry Mitchell.
McCain points to his own long-standing opposition to earmarks as evidence that he’s a true conservative. He says Hayworth’s support for them should be troubling to conservatives, and that Republican primary voters in other states have sent a clear message that they oppose the special funding.
Hayworth spokesman Mark Sanders called McCain’s ads “a desperate ploy by Sen. McCain because he knows he’s in trouble.”
Hayworth is raising money to air an ad that attacks McCain’s support for the immigration reform bill, but he has not yet aired any television commercials.
McCain has for months been airing TV ads touting his record, including a spot ridiculed online in which the senator demands that the government “complete the danged fence” on the U.S.-Mexico border.