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Establishment candidates in Arizona, Florida rally against 'outsider' rivals
McCain sought out leaders of the organization. He knew they might still be unhappy about his vote against the Bush tax cuts and disagreed with him on campaign finance reform. But he argued that, under Obama, government spending was now the big issue, and said that on that issue he had a solid conservative record compatible with theirs.
McCain also knew that Hayworth was handicapped in portraying himself as a small-government conservative because of his record of supporting earmarks as a member of the House. McCain attacked Hayworth as a pork-barrel spender and lobbyist, challenging his posture as a Washington outsider. The Club for Growth stayed out of Arizona.
"McCain took Hayworth very seriously very early in ways that other presumptive winners didn't," said one conservative strategist who declined to be identified in order to speak candidly. "If Bob Bennett had McCain's political instincts, he might have been able to save himself."
Immigration remained a potential stumbling block for the senator, who had championed comprehensive immigration reform during the Bush administration.
In the spring, the immigration issue flared anew in Arizona when a man was shot and killed in a remote area of his ranch, in the southeastern part of the state. Soon after, McCain and Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) unveiled a 10-point border-security package that included a call for 3,000 more National Guard troops deployed to the border. He also embraced Arizona's new immigration law, which the Justice Department has challenged.
McCain's toughened stance was memorably captured in a campaign commercial in which he tells the sheriff of Pinal County that it is time to "complete the danged fence" along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The final blow to Hayworth came in June. McCain's campaign aired a television commercial blasting the challenger for appearing in an infomercial filmed in 2007 for a company that was promoting questionable seminars touting free government grants to individuals. "Huckster?" McCain's ad asked after showing Hayworth's pitch.
McCain outspent Hayworth, pouring more than $20 million into the campaign to his opponent's estimated $3 million.
The Democratic Senate nomination campaign in Florida has been mostly overshadowed for months by the saga of Gov. Charlie Crist, who decided to quit the Republican primary race and run as an independent after he fell behind conservative tea party favorite Marco Rubio.
Meek suffered from a lack of statewide recognition and a lack of money. When Greene got into the race, his free spending quickly raised his profile and his poll numbers. Some Democratic strategists doubted that Meek could overcome Greene's superior resources.
Then the Florida media, led by the St. Petersburg Times, began to hammer Greene. It questioned his real estate dealings and exposed his extravagant lifestyle (including lavish and raucous parties aboard his 145-foot yacht), his hobnobbing with boxer Mike Tyson and his harsh treatment of staff and crew.
In the Republican gubernatorial primary, businessman Rick Scott has spent almost $40 million against McCollum. But McCollum has been aided by some outside groups, and the Republican Governors Association, which is technically neutral, issued an unusual public rebuke of Scott for misrepresenting McCollum's views.
Susan MacManus, a political scientist at the University of South Florida, described the spending by Greene and Scott as "money madness" gone awry.
"People are saying, 'Why are they spending all this money to be a senator or governor, and is it right?' " she said.