JD Hayworth: McCain’s Worst Nightmare?

The replacement of “Maverick” Republican John McCain with an authentic conservative is a longtime fantasy held by many of us on the Right.  But could it actually happen?  Former Congressman and Arizona talk radio host JD Hayworth thinks so, and while the polls show he’s got an uphill battle, an upset isn’t impossible.  The Daily Beast’s Lloyd Grove recently had a few words with Hayworth about the race:

“We all respect John and thank him for his service,” Hayworth says. “His place in history is secure. He will remain a widely admired historical figure. But after 28 years in Washington, it’s time to come home. People are just ready for a change.”


“Sure, he’s a very slick communicator, but he has no demonstrated record of accomplishment,” says Brian Rogers, McCain’s campaign press secretary. “He went to college for broadcasting and he was a sportscaster before he was elected to Congress, and he’s obviously been successful at that. But compare that to the life experience of John McCain. I think people are looking for a little bit more than a radio shock jock.”

Bashing talk radio—now that’s gonna play well with conservative voters!  In all seriousness, Hayworth would be a vastly preferable Senator to McCain.  As Erick Erickson has pointed out, his admittedly-imperfect conservative record is still far better than McCain’s, Hayworth was a fierce opponent of the very amnesty plan McCain not only championed, but demagogically so, and while Hayworth lost his House seat in 2006 amidst the Jack Abramoff scandal, he was never shown to have committed any actual wrongdoing.  As Erick says:

I know – and anyone who has watched McCain knows – that if he is re-elected, he will at some point in the next 6 years work against conservatives and with liberals on energy taxes, free speech restrictions, or God-knows what other liberal cause suddenly consumes him.

I had the honor of meeting Representative Hayworth several years ago at the 2005 Teen Age Republicans national conference, where I got the distinct impression that, unlike many of the career politicians on Capitol Hill, he approached his job with a sense of purpose, that he was there to advance certain ideas rather than his perpetual reelection.  Hayworth is eloquent, personable, and passionate, and certainly has the potential to legitimately challenge McCain—that is, if he’s learned his lesson about taking the Birther bait from the media.  And the “identity theft” damage control?  Not a smart move, JD.

McCain’s got a fair lead in the polls now, but as Arlen Specter learned, polls are hardly written in stone, and as Grove put it, “the climate is unpredictable” and “the electorate is mad as hell at the powers that be.”  It’s still questionable whether or not the Republican Party will realize that their own liberalism has been the source of many of their woes, but the long-overdue replacement of the Party’s leading RINO with an actual conservative would be a big step in the right direction, and a fitting symbol of true change.


Hailing from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, Calvin Freiburger is a political science major at Hillsdale College.  He also blogs at the Hillsdale Forum and his personal website, Calvin Freiburger Online.