Once intense rivals, Sen. John McCain and former Gov. Mitt Romney have teamed up to hit the campaign trail together for a two-day swing in Arizona. The race is for McCain’s sixth term in the U.S. Senate but their campaign message feels bigger and broader.
They each held the Republican Party’s highest honor as its nominee for president and each has concerns about the volatile politics of this political season.
Neither Romney nor McCain mentioned the name of their successor, Donald Trump, but clearly referred to him and his impact on the country.
Romney told a rally crowd in Mesa that he understands the populism sweeping the country around the world. “But part of that frustration and anger is because people don’t have trust in the people who are in government,” he added. “Our country needs people of character and integrity.”
"This election makes a difference and who represents your state makes a difference. I think John McCain's experience, his judgment, is gonna be critical for the next president, whoever that might be. I also believe, perhaps more than we've seen in a long, long time, it's important to have, among the people we elect, people of unquestioned integrity," Romney added at an event in Chandler on Friday.
Romney’s pitch was expressly for McCain’s re-election but it resonated with issues that surround Trump. The former Massachusetts governor, who was mocked in 2012 for his description of Russia as a top geopolitical foe of the U.S., said the next president will need to be “a person who understands what Vladimir Putin really is.”
Throughout his campaign, Trump has spoken favorably of Trump, saying he has been “far more” of a leader than President Barack Obama.
At a separate event on the economy, both Romney and McCain spoke about their support for trade sounding a different note than Trump or Hillary Clinton.
McCain hinted that he didn’t want to get political, but criticized Hillary Clinton’s switching her support from the Trans Pacific Partnership.
“Our former secretary of state was all in favor of TPP and now strangely she’s against it. Maybe some felt that she felt the Bern,” McCain said, making reference to Sen. Bernie Sanders who made trade a big part of this challenge to Clinton in the Democratic primary.
Romney who touted entrepreneurship saying, “we are an innovation nation,” also appeared to be looking beyond November. “To get things done in America, you have to be willing to work across the aisle.”
McCain withdrew his support from Trump after allegations were made by several women alleging Trump made unwanted advances.
McCain did not speak of Trump but drew a laugh when he co-opted Trump’s slogan when talking about the Arizona State University football team.
“We can Make Arizona State Great Again,” he joked.