Sen. John McCain is facing a strong challenger for reelection to his U.S. Senate seat in Arizona, amid the flashpoint of a presidential election year and voters' anger at Washington.
McCain's opponent, Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, is tied with McCain in early polling, according to Alexander Bolton and Scott Wong of The Hill
"The basic problem for John McCain is the same kind of thing that faces a lot of incumbents right now. He's been there a long time. People are leery of Washington. They don't like Washington," said former Republican Rep. Jim Kolbe, who served with McCain for 18 years.
McCain has represented Arizona in either the Senate or the House since 1983.
Donald Trump's potential Republican presidential nomination could affect other Republicans on the ballot. Trump is not popular with Hispanic voters, who have a growing voting base in Arizona.
Trump as the nominee would be "a drag on the ticket," said Kolbe.
McCain plans to campaign around Arizona during the March Senate recess. Trump is appearing at campaign rallies in Arizona, ahead of the March 29 primary in the winner-take-all state.
McCain's campaign has announced that he will not appear at those events.
Former Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl said McCain is "energetic and engaged" and "he knows it's a very unpredictable year."
McCain's history with Republicans in his state may come into play. The state party censured him in 2014 for a "liberal and harmful" record. McCain helped draft the Senate's immigration reform bill in 2013 and, back in 2002, was instrumental in the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act.
"There's a lot of angst right now," said GOP strategist Adam Deguire. "The environment of the electorate is just very angry."
McCain's opponent Ann Kirkpatrick pointed to a "dead heat"
in their race in a press release.
Kirkpatrick is tying him to Trump's campaign, pointing out that McCain has said he'll support Trump if he becomes the presidential nominee, despite Trump's stances on immigration and other issues.
In February, Kirkpatrick zeroed in on McCain's ties to Trump in a campaign video.
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