Pols aren’t supposed to talk about it until after John McCain’s Saturday funeral at the Naval Academy. But we can because it’s important politically.
The big question is who will replace McCain after six terms in the U. S. Senate, where Republicans hold a tiny 51-49 majority. It’s up to Arizona’s GOP Gov. Doug Ducey to name a replacement. It’s a tricky pick.
For starters, the governor is up for a tough reelection challenge himself on Nov. 6. So, the pick cannot alienate Ducey’s own in-state base as, say, naming McCain’s widow, Cindy, might.
Ducey’s pick must be a loyal, reliable Republican maybe perhaps sort-of in the strong Western kind of mold because among his/her first major decisions this fall will be voting on the confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
Ideally, the pick would please President Trump. Ducey is a pal of Vice President Mike Pence. The governor and president have had a tentative relationship since the Ducey was slow to endorse the New Yorker in 2016. Since then, they seem to have warmed to become allies if not best buds.
So, the pick should be a backer of the Trump agenda unlike, say, Arizona’s other senator, Jeff Flake, a Trump antagonist who’s retiring in January, quite possibly to mount a primary challenge to Trump in 2020.
It would be helpful too if the pick was not a placeholder until the regular Senate election come November, 2020.
But it needs to be a real conservative with a realistic chance of winning on their own. That would take Arizona’s Senate seat off the worry grid in a presidential year when the GOP, when the GOP will be almost as exposed nationally as Democrats are this fall, defending 26 of 33 seats up.
Former Rep. Trent Franks said, “Doug has certainly done everything, at least that I’ve observed, in a way that’s conducive to a good relationship with Trump.” Let’s be honest,though, what matters is what Trump has observed. And he’s endorsed Ducey’s reelection, one of 26 GOP gubernatorial seats up on Nov. 6.
One McCain replacement possibility with a good shot at 2020 success would be former Sen. Jon Kyl, who served with McCain from 1995 to 2013. But Kyl is 76.
Other possibilities would be former Rep. Matt Salmon or former state senator Kelli Ward, if she loses to Rep. Martha McSally in today’s primary contest to go for Flake’s empty seat this November.
“John McCain was one of a kind,” said Sean Noble, a veteran Republican strategist. “So it makes sense that replacing him is very challenging, because no one will quite measure up.”
One newcomer to the rumor mill is Maj. Gen. Michael McGuire, a career military pilot who’s director of the state’s Department of Emergency and Military Affairs and adjutant general. He would certainly honor McCain’s military background and presumably please Trump.