Thursday September 1, 2016
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I was in Phoenix to spend some time watching a non-Presidential campaign. In this case it was Senator John McCain's campaign for U.S. Senate. I picked this campaign because it's just about the end of the primary election season and I've known - or at least known of - McCain since he was a freshman Member of Congress in 1983 and I was doing my first turn at the National Republican Congressional Committee which is the political arm of Republicans in the House.
I had forgotten what a race for U.S. Senate, even a big-time race like this one, was like.
McCain's primary was Tuesday night. On Monday, I stopped in to watch the Professional Firefighters Union endorse McCain at Fire Station #30 in Phoenix.
There was no army of advance people all strutting around with ear thingies, making decisions that you would think, by their earnestness, were likely to change the course of history.
"Move the American flag about six inches to the left." "That banner behind the band? Lift the right side about an inch." "The bus is about 20 minutes out. Repeat, the bus is about 20 minutes out!"
In the case of the firefighters' event, there was one advance guy schlepping a couple of flags, some sound equipment, and the requisite banner. He moved tables and chairs around the small room that clearly was used as a classroom for the firefighters.
There were no cheering crowds. In fact, I'm not certain there was anyone there that was not on the McCain campaign, a member of the media, or a firefighter. It was a made-for-TV event and it went off without a hitch.
Almost without a hitch. The lineup of firefighters behind McCain and the president of the union were all men. I would have found at least a couple of female firefighters to put back there, but this was the next-to-the-last day of a long campaign and I know that that's like.
McCain was asked by NBC's Kelly O'Donnell about Trump. She actually asked it about three times but McCain had the answer down cold: I've got 100% name ID here in Arizona. These people know me. They know what I've done for them. I'm confident I will win.
What he was saying was: I don't think many people in Arizona are looking to Donald Trump for guidance on how to vote in this election.
Tuesday was election night. The last public poll anyone saw had McCain easily beating his Trumpist opponent, Kelli Ward. But, double secret internal polls (about which I was sworn to secrecy) showed a potentially very, very tight race.
Judging from a curtain-raiser published on Political.com Tuesday afternoon, someone must have leaked the numbers. The headline: "McCain Braces for a Squeaker in Today's Primary" topped the piece by reporter Burgess Everett.
Hard to know how else he might have detected that.
When the actual votes were counted, McCain won by 60,761 votes - 51.6 percent to 39.2 percent (two other Republican candidates made up the difference).
Over in Florida, Sen. Marco Rubio, also not a close personal friend of Donald Trump, coasted to an easy primary win and when I say "easy" I mean he beat his closest competitor by three-quarters of a million votes.
Earlier in the cycle, Speaker Paul Ryan's primary election was being watched closely by the media to see if a non-, sort of-, tepid-endorsement from Donald Trump would tell us something about Trump's capacity to influence other races.
It didn't. Ryan got over 84 percent of the votes in his Wisconsin primary.
The reason these three results are important is because everyone is trying to determine the "Trump Effect."
If the primary campaigns of Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, and John McCain are any indicators, candidates who run good campaigns will do well notwithstanding how Trump does.
One the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to the Secretary of State pages for both Arizona and Florida as well as the RCP polling average webpage.
Also a Mullfoto from the McCain election night event.
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