A day after extending his unbeaten record in Arizona elections, Sen. John McCain on Wednesday looked ahead to his next battle — a contest with a little-known Democrat that is likely to be a smooth ride to re-election.
McCain easily dispatched J.D. Hayworth in Tuesday’s Republican primary, extinguishing the biggest threat to his re-election in 24 years in the Senate.
McCain beat the former congressman and conservative talk-radio host 56 percent to 32 percent in unofficial returns. He now faces former Tucson City Councilman Rodney Glassman, who will have 10 weeks to introduce himself to a statewide electorate.
McCain is confident.
“I’ve outcampaigned every opponent I’ve ever faced, and I’ll do the same thing in this one,” he told reporters after speaking to business leaders at an Arizona Chamber of Commerce luncheon in Phoenix.
The campaign with Glassman looks to be a story of contrasts.
McCain, 73, is an old political hand, universally known for his heroic military service and political survival.
Glassman, 32, is less than half McCain’s age. He’s a political newcomer after serving just two years on the Tucson City Council before resigning to take on McCain. He says it’s time for a new generation to lead.
“Arizonans are hungry for a U.S. senator who’s going to put Arizona first, someone who’s going to focus on jobs, focus on education, focus on the future of our state,” Glassman said after beating three contenders for the Democratic nomination.
McCain’s triumph ended a bitter GOP primary. McCain called Hayworth a “huckster;” Hayworth called McCain a liar and a “political shape-shifter.”
In victory, McCain encouraged supporters of his rival to come together behind him and other Republican nominees.
“I hope to prove to them, as I have in tough campaigns in the past, that we all have to be united and support all of our Republican candidates and ensure victory,” he said.
McCain stuck to familiar refrains in his 30-minute question-and-answer session with business leaders Wednesday. He said President Barack Obama is burdening businesses with too much regulation, and he criticized health care and financial overhaul bills.
But illegal immigration, an issue that dominated the debate in his primary battle, was barely mentioned.
Once a leading advocate for a moderate approach to immigration, McCain has lately adopted a hard-line stance and now talks almost exclusively about securing the border.
McCain said he expects illegal immigration and border security to continue being key campaign topics.
“As long as the violence is dramatically increasing on the other side of the border, it is still a vital issue to the people of Arizona,” he said.