Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain may face one of the toughest battles of his political career if he seeks a sixth term in office after co-authoring a Senate bill
favoring a pathway to citizenship last year.
McCain, 78, is starting to speak with party officials and local GOP key figures about making another bid, reports The Hill
. And while the long-time senator and former presidential GOP nominee has flirted in some interviews with the idea of retirement, he told The Hill that he's "leaning toward" another run.
"I'm doing all the things necessary to do so," said McCain of a potential bid. "A good fundraising quarter. A lot of meetings and talking to a lot of people in the state, the usual preparations in the state."
But this time around, McCain could face tougher opposition in the state he's held for three decades, and will likely be targeted by tea party supporters who oppose his stance on immigration and other key issues.
"Speaking for myself and every other Republican I know and every other tea party person I know, we're sick to death of him and we will move," said Wes Harris, founder of the Original North Phoenix Tea Party, the first tea party group established in Phoenix, told The Hill.
McCain earlier this year told The Wrap, an entertainment website, that he doesn't "want to be one of these old guys that should've shoved off."
The veteran senator's last primary challenge was in 2010, two years he lost the White House to Barack Obama, when he faced former Rep. J.D. Hayworth
, now host of Newsmax TV's
He defeated Hayworth by 25 points, reports The Hill, but insiders predict a much tougher challenge from a tea party candidate should he run in 2016.
Arizona Republican Rep. David Schweikert, a tea party favorite, is already polling ahead of McCain by 40 percent to 34 percent, according to a hypothetical matchup surveyed by the Citizens United Political Victory Fund. Further, 64 percent of the respondents said they want to see someone besides McCain in the Senate.
Another potential candidate, Arizona Republican Rep. Matt Salmon, led McCain by 48 to 30 percent in the same poll, The Hill reports.
McCain's job performance is also earning low marks, a survey by Public Policy Polling shows, with 54 percent of the state disapproving and 30 percent approving.
The state's Republican Party itself has also censured McCain, calling his record "disastrous and harmful."
But a primary challenger may have some trouble fighting against McCain's war chest. At the end of June, he still had $1.7 million in his campaign war chest. Meanwhile, Schweikert has $58,000 and Salmon has $532,000, according to the Federal Election Commission.
Meanwhile, former Sen. Jon Kyl, a GOP colleague, is predicting McCain could win another term, and that as the state party makeup will be different next year, the senator could regain its support.
In addition, Kyl told The Hill that McCain's foreign policy expertise will convince voters.
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