Arizona GOP critics continue to press McCain

McCain 2008
Presidential candidate, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has been dogged by a group of conservative GOP activists since he first ran for Congress over 25 years ago.Mary Altaffer / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Sen. John McCain's status as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee has done little to ease the criticism he faces from a small but vocal group of conservatives in his home state.

A week ago, Republican activists living in the same state legislative district as McCain rejected nearly all the names his campaign submitted as candidates to become delegates to the party's state convention on May 10.

Six people on McCain's slate eventually became delegates, said Rob Haney, the district's Republican chairman and McCain's most prominent critic in Arizona.

"The people who know him like him the least. He is a media darling, so the general population doesn't know his record — and conservatives do," Haney said, though noting he doesn't believe the development could derail McCain's campaign.

The group of conservatives has dogged McCain since he first ran for Congress in 1982, objecting to his views on illegal immigration and campaign finance, among other issues. They rallied around him during the "Keating Five" scandal but were turned off by his moderate positions in the 2000 presidential race.

While the group has at times been an embarrassment, McCain remains strong in Arizona. The latest polls show him with a sizable lead in the state in matchups against either of his two Democratic rivals.

State delegates will meet in Mesa on May 10 to pick Arizona's 50 delegates to the Republican National Convention.

McCain has responded to the criticism in the past by saying he's confident he has support from an overwhelming majority of Arizonans.

Sean McCaffrey, executive director of the Arizona Republican Party, said many of the names McCain's campaign submitted weren't accepted as delegates for his home district, but cautioned against interpreting the results as a swipe against McCain.

Jeff Sadosky, a McCain campaign spokesman, would only say that the senator is confident he will win his home state in November.

"Senator McCain has very quickly been able to pull together the overwhelming majority of Republican voters across the country and is now able to expand his campaign to open-minded independents and Democrats," he said.