Update: Ward isn't backing off of her strategy, even suggesting in a new interview that McCain might die in office.
“I’m a doctor. The life expectancy of the American male is not 86. It's less," she told Politico's Burgess Everett.
And: “Pointing out a simple, biological, physiological fact that he’s turning 80 on Monday, that is 100 percent complete truth and the people deserve to know.”
And: “He’s become pretty sour. A pretty sour old guy."
If you thought the Trump campaign's suggestions and innuendo about Hillary Clinton's health were rough, bare-knuckle politics, meet Sen. John McCain's (R-Ariz.) primary challenger.
Former state senator Kelli Ward, by all accounts doesn't have much of a chance in her primary against McCain on Tuesday -- and probably because of that fact, basically just said McCain is too old and is mentally unfit to keep serving as senator.
Ward, a medical doctor, diagnosed McCain as "an 80-year-old man" during her interview with MSNBC's Chuck Todd.
Prepare yourself for some suggestive language.
“John McCain is falling down on the job," she said, only getting started. "He has gotten weak. He has gotten old. I do want to wish him a happy birthday. He's going to be 80 on Monday, and I want to give him the best birthday present ever -- the gift of retirement."
Also: "I'm a physician. I see the physiological changes that happen in normal aging, in patients again and again and again over the last 20, 25 years. So I do know what happens to the body and the mind at the end of life."
Yes, she actually said "end of life" while talking about her 79-year-old, war hero opponent (whose mother, by the way, is still around at the age of 104).
Asked by a taken-aback Todd whether she feels comfortable diagnosing McCain without examining him as his personal doctor, Ward had an amazingly brazen response.
“Diagnosing him as an 80-year-old man, yes, I do," she said.
A CNN/Opinion Research poll this week showed McCain leading Ward 55 percent to 29 percent in their primary. McCain also faced a primary challenger in 2010, in former congressman J.D. Hayworth. McCain easily dispatched Hayworth, 56-32, despite the regular questions about whether the 2008 GOP presidential nominee was conservative enough.
The same CNN poll showed McCain leading his Democratic opponent, Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, by 13 points.
Ward's comments sound a lot like a Hail Mary. This is what you say when you are down big and you need a miracle in the final days of a campaign. She lodged the comments at the end of the interview while responding to a question that wasn't about McCain's age or anything like it -- clearly wanting to register them.
We'll see Tuesday whether it pays off.