John McCain faces a primary challenge to his renomination as the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate. His challenger is a former Representative and radio talker, J. D. Hayworth, who proposes to challenge the recent Republican presidential nominee from the right. The campaign is already shaping up as a gash cutting across all convention lines of division within the GOP. Hayworth presents himself as a spokesman for the Tea Parties and grass-roots conservatism in his state, but the would-be queen of the Tea Parties, Sarah Palin, is expected to campaign for McCain, her partner on the 2008 national ticket. Hayworth is an unapologetic endorser of the invasion of Iraq, but has received the informal support of the arch antiwar conservative Pat Buchanan, albeit mainly on the strength of Hayworth's consistent and vehement opposition to illegal immigration, though Buchanan may also perceive McCain as a dangerous neocon in a way that the superpatriot Hayworth somehow isn't. In any event, Republican Arizona is a kind of wonderland, to keep alive the wrong kind of Tea Party metaphor, where McCain, perceived in the "mainstream" world to have turned sharply right since he lost the 2000 primary campaign to George W. Bush, is accused by Hayworth of veering regularly leftward since then.
This may prove to be the most interesting campaign in the nation this year on the strength of its potential for mischief among Republicans across the country. Movement conservatives have always mistrusted McCain despite his perceived concessions to them, and many still feel that a "better" candidate could have beaten Senator Obama two years ago. But "paleoconservatives" like Buchanan dislike McCain for a different package of reasons. That means any anti-McCain coalition is likely to be an uncomfortable one for all involved, just as Palin and McCain with their history are likely to be uncomfortable together on any podium hereafter. Things could only get more interesting if McCain survives the primary challenge. Would Hayworth be guided by whatever ideological conscience he has to continue his run as an independent conservative, or would he serve party first in ironic contrast to his opponent's presidential campaign slogan? Personally, I'm looking forward to a long, bitter, divisive and crippling campaign -- and I hope for the same on the Democratic side.