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Denogean: Governor would beat McCain for Senate, polls say



Sen. John McCain is holding a news conference Tuesday to talk about his political future.

There’s no need to hold your breath in anticipation. The national media report that he has told senior advisers he plans to run for a fifth term.

Oh, joy! I wonder if he’ll promise to devote that term to actually representing Arizona.

The 72-year-old Republican senator has spent much of his last decade in office preparing to run or running for president. From his first bid in 1999-2000 to this year’s election, he’s kissed babies on the campaign trail and kissed off his duty to Arizona.

In 2007, The Washington Post reported McCain skipped 251 of 446 voting opportunities of the 110th Congress. McCain missed more votes than almost anyone in the Senate, second only to the senator who suffered a brain hemorrhage in late 2006.

Guess what? The guy with the brain injury, Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., recovered and returned to Congress. Our senator now boasts the worst record, having missed 64 percent of 656 voting opportunities.

Here’s something else to consider about McCain’s regard for Arizona, at a more basic level.

McCain’s vice presidential running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin, never let the public forget, ad nauseam, that she came from the great state of Alaska and the wee city of Wasilla. But how often did you hear McCain mention Arizona on the campaign trail? Did he even give us a shout-out? Perhaps he might have showed the state some love if we had a pivotal presidential primary, like his “special” New Hampshire.

One of the rare times I heard McCain talk about Arizona was during a late October interview with Chris Wallace on Fox News and it was hardly a proclamation of undying affection for the state that gave him a 25-year political career.

Asked about the possibility of losing the presidential race, McCain spoke of Arizona as some sort of consolation prize.

“I mean, I don’t dwell on it. But, look, I’ve a wonderful life. I have to go back and live in Arizona, be in the United States Senate representing them, a wonderful family, daughters and sons that I’m so proud of and a life that’s been blessed.”

And we in Arizona are to believe the job he really, really wants is to represent this little ol’ state?

Even when not in the middle of a campaign, McCain has all but ignored the needs of Arizona as he sought to position himself as a national figure and straight-talking reformer.

McCain is rightfully proud of his ethical stance against making earmark requests. But many Arizonans have a taste for bacon and aren’t as thrilled as national audiences that our state ranks last in pork-barrel spending.

Arizona received about $19 per person in federal earmarks in the recently ended fiscal year, according to Gannett News Service. Alaska, which brings home more federal bacon than any other state, received about $506 per person.

The last time McCain did anything truly in the best interest of Arizona was in 2006 when he took the lead on immigration reform. It was brave.

McCain backed off as the public face of immigration reform in 2007. And when Congress rejected the reform bill, McCain made a complete about-face and joined the “secure-the-borders” first crowd. The rest, he promised, would come later.

Not his finest moment as a maverick.

On Nov. 4, McCain defeated Obama in Arizona 53.6 percent to 45.1 percent, a respectable but not overwhelming margin. He lost Pima County, the state’s second-largest county, and, humiliatingly, his home precinct in Maricopa County.

McCain wouldn’t be an easy target in 2010 but could be vulnerable to a strong Democratic candidate, perhaps Gov. Janet Napolitano, should she hose down her burning ambition to serve in Barack Obama’s administration and instead stick around to fulfill her duty to those who elected her twice.

Two polls of the hypothetical matchup say Napolitano would beat McCain by a healthy margin.

In a previous column about McCain, I suggested his one-sided relationship with Arizona was best described in the title of a popular dating book of 2004: “He’s Just Not that into You.”

There was a follow-up to that book in 2005, the title of which sums of the feelings of many Arizonans after years of senatorial neglect:

“Be Honest – You’re Not that into Him Either.”

Anne T. Denogean can be reached at 573-4582 and adenogean@tucsoncitizen.com. Address letters to P.O. Box 26767, Tucson, AZ 85726-6767. Her columns run Tuesdays and Fridays.

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