Senate races

Club for Growth may back a McCain primary challenger

Greg Nash

The fiscally conservative Club for Growth is keeping a close eye on a possible primary challenge to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), its president said Tuesday morning.

{mosads}”In Arizona, we will watch that carefully. We’ll look at John’s record and his score,” Club for Growth President David McIntosh told The Hill during a Tuesday breakfast sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor.

Reps. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.) and Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.) have both told The Hill they’re considering a challenge to McCain. Both Tea Party-leaning congressmen have been supported in the past by the group, which has also been critical of McCain.

“We’ll see if either of the two members, you’re right, they’re people the Club’s supported and thinks well of in Congress, does one of them decide to enter the race,” McIntosh continued. “We’ll do research including polling and determine, is there a path to victory and is the money well spent? And by a path to victory, some institutions only engage in things when they’re 90 percent sure will lead to victory. The Club is willing to take greater risk. … So that’ll be an assessment we do in Arizona if the race materializes.”

The Club has long been the biggest player on the right in GOP House and Senate primaries, and has helped elect a number of conservative Republican senators, including Marco Rubio (Fla.), Rand Paul (Ky.) and Ted Cruz (Texas), a trio of likely presidential contenders.

McIntosh suggested that the Club is likely to not endorse in a presidential primary, though he said the group will continue to be vocal in criticizing those whose policies don’t align with the Club’s. He has already slammed former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a longtime foe of the organization.

“If history repeats itself, we won’t be endorsing a candidate for president,” he said. 

The group has also taken the blame for backing primary challengers who flamed out in the general election — the Club helped defeat Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) in a primary in 2012, only to have its endorsed candidate, Richard Mourdock, blow the race against now-Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.).

McIntosh said some of the other Republicans facing reelection that don’t align completely with the organization aren’t likely to face their wrath this time around.

He said, “nobody from Illinois has come to us” about challenging Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and that the organization’s primary objective is making sure it makes a “good investment” in backing someone who can win a general election, a sign it’s unlikely to play in Democratic Illinois.

McIntosh, a former Indiana congressman, also described establishment-leaning Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.) as a “longtime political friend and ally,” and said he hasn’t heard “of a race materializing” against him.

When asked which senator he most wanted to defeat, he said “Harry Reid.” But he said, if Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval is the GOP candidate, the Club would stay on the sidelines. The likely front-runner, if he runs, has come under fire from conservatives for tax hikes he’s pushed in the state. 

“Everything I’m hearing is, if he decided to run, it’d clear the field,” McIntosh said. “Because of his record of raising taxes, he’d be someone the Club would not engage in supporting and use the resources for others.”

Tags Club for Growth Dan Coats David Schweikert Harry Reid Joe Donnelly John McCain John McCain Marco Rubio Mark Kirk Matt Salmon Rand Paul Ted Cruz
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