As promised, Sarah Palin has come to Arizona. After presenting herself as the tribune of the Tea Parties, she is campaigning for a Republican many Tea Partiers despise, Senator McCain, against a challenger who claims to be, and is recognized by many as the true Tea Party candidate. The former running mates were in Mesa today, where a self-styled "libertarian" heckler interrupted Palin's speech before security removed him.
His opinion of Palin is unclear, but others in Arizona are disappointed in her show of loyalty, or fulfillment of a debt, to McCain. This article notes that McCain may have erred in following Palin on the podium, since many of her fans didn't stay after she finished to listen to him. Some were willing to express their disappointment with her, and their disdain for him, to reporters.
McCain's opponent, J. D. Hayworth, is careful not to criticize Palin for supporting the incumbent, but he does warn that it isn't up to her who'll represent Arizona in the Senate. He has some cause for confidence. His campaign site reports a poll showing that he's shaved McCain's lead in opinion from 22 to 7 percentage points in the last two months. Hayworth himself may be in a position to decide who sits in that Senate seat next year. He could win the Republican primary, or he could bolt, as principle would seem to dictate, if McCain wins.
The Arizona race will be one of the clearest indicators of the strength and resolution of the Tea Party movement. For now, the Arizona TPs hope to seize the GOP by toppling McCain. The real question is: what do they do if Hayworth loses? Do they accept the GOP yoke out of partisan loyalty or fear of Democrats, or do they make a stand (as progressives also should) to demand better representation in the upper house? Palin's role in the drama is clear enough by now; she hopes to wed the TPs to the GOP as a matter of personal loyalty to her. Anyone who listens to her outside Arizona should bear that in mind.