John McCain Is Now Campaigning As a Check on President Hillary Clinton

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One day after securing his party’s nomination for reelection, John McCain kicked off his general-election campaign by reminding voters that Hillary Clinton will probably be the next president.

“My opponent Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick is a good person,” McCain says in a new campaign video. “But, if Hillary Clinton is elected president, Arizona will need a senator who will act as a check, not a rubber stamp to the White House.”

The senator goes on to note that Kirkpatrick “won’t oppose higher taxes, she won’t oppose more federal spending, and she won’t oppose increased debts that slow economic growth.”

McCain has kept his “maverick” suit in the closet this election cycle, declining to disavow Donald Trump, despite the GOP nominee’s having mocked him for being tortured in Vietnam. Kirkpatrick has taken advantage of McCain’s humiliating dependence on Trump supporters, painting the elderly senator as helpless and weak.

McCain never mentions Trump in his new ad, though he does obliquely reference Americans’ broad antipathy for both of their presidential options, saying “whether you are satisfied or dissatisfied with your choices for president, this election is an important one.”

As Hillary Clinton has focused increasing attention on wooing Republican voters, a Suffolk University survey released Thursday found that 32 percent of voters plan to split their tickets this November. McCain’s pitch seems to be aimed squarely at theoretical “Clinton Republicans.”

As Talking Points Memo’s Lauren Fox notes, it’s an identical strategy to the one employed by Republican Senate candidates in 1996, when it became clear that Bob Dole was going to lose some GOP voters to a different President Clinton. That scheme worked well two decades ago, as Republicans gained two seats in the upper chamber.

If history is any guide, then, this video should make Kirkpatrick a bit nervous — and the Clinton campaign a bit more at ease.