No sooner did John McCain win his primary last Tuesday than he wrote off Donald Trump for president. His pitch to voters is send him back to Washington for a sixth term so he can block President Hillary Clinton's plans.
There's no love lost between Arizona's senior senator and the draft-dodging billionaire who said the former Navy pilot who spent five and a half years in a North Vietnamese prison is "not a war hero" because "he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”
McCain had carefully avoided criticizing Trump during what was expected to be a close primary in a deep red state and against an alt-right Trumpite challenger. The senator said he planned to vote for the party's nominee though, whatever the semantic difference, he did not endorse Trump. (Trump, under pressure from party leaders, reluctantly endorsed McCain after his earlier refusal.)
As McCain's challenge shifted from right to left last week, he moved to divorce himself from Trump.
He shifted from being worried that Trump's followers would vote against him in the primary to seeing them as an albatross in the general election as he seeks a sixth term at the age of 80.
McCain, a staunch friend of Israel, is the chairman of the Senate Armed Service Committee. He has been a leader on defense issues throughout his career.
He demonstrated admirable decency in the 2008 presidential campaign when encountering racial slurs against his opponent, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Illinois); that stands in stark contrast to the racism and bigotry that has characterized the birther Trump's behavior.
In launching his general election campaign, there was no mention of a Trump presidency; he left little doubt he expects Clinton to win and he's already planning his opposition.
His pitch to voters was to elect him as a check on President Hillary Clinton.
His said Arizona needs him to "act as a check – not a rubber stamp – for the White House." His opponent is running ads reminding voters that McCain has pledged to vote for Trump. His hope is that voters will forget that and send him back to the Senate.