Senate Conservatives Fund targets McCain
© Greg Nash

The Senate Conservatives Fund (SCF) has launched an effort to defeat Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainLawmakers worry about rise of fake video technology Democrats put Dreamers and their party in danger by playing hardball Trump set a good defense budget, but here is how to make it better MORE (R-Ariz.), bashing him for failing to uphold the principles of a “true conservative” just hours after he announced his intention to run for reelection.

“There are few Republicans who have betrayed our conservative principles more than John McCain,” SCF President Ken Cuccinelli said in an email to supporters Tuesday of the party's 2008 nominee for president. 

“John McCain lost his way a long time ago and it's time to replace him with a strong conservative leader who will support and defend the Constitution.” 

Cuccinelli’s email links to a petition to replace McCain, which, as of 2 p.m. ET, has 457 signatures. He slams McCain for high-profile instances where he crossed the aisle, including helping to forge the bipartisan Senate immigration bill, as well as voting for various fiscal cliff and debt limit deals. 

McCain is set to announce his decision to run again during a speech at an Arizona Chamber of Commerce luncheon in Phoenix. He teased the decision in an interview with NBC News posted late Monday night.

"I'm ready. I am more than ready. In some ways, I am eager,” he told NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell. “I think I have the knowledge and background to help the nation through very perilous times, and I believe that I can still contribute in many ways to the welfare and benefit of my state.”

The SCF isn’t the first conservative group to target McCain. The president of the Club for Growth said the group might support a primary challenger to the five-term senator. And Reps. David SchweikertDavid SchweikertFive obstacles to Trump's infrastructure ambitions The Hill's Whip List: Where Republicans stand on tax-reform bill GOP Senate hopeful Kelli Ward leads challengers in internal poll MORE and Matt SalmonMatthew (Matt) James SalmonQuiet jockeying for McCain seat angers Republicans McSally tells GOP colleagues she'll run for Arizona Senate GOP Senate hopeful Kelli Ward leads challengers in internal poll MORE (R-Ariz.) both told The Hill in February that they’re eyeing a bid to unseat McCain.  

McCain was once the standard-bearer of the party during his run for president. He struggled at times with the party’s base during the primaries, mainly over his immigration position.  

Since the election, he’s remained a prominent voice within the party, specifically on foreign policy issues. He now serves as the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.