Arizona has two U.S. senators: John McCain and that other guy.
The other guy is a decent man, so decent that in his 11 years as a senator in Washington, D.C., he has often seemed constitutionally incapable of promoting himself in the manner common of national political figures such as our hero, John McCain.
And the other guy really is a national political figure. Quietly, behind the scenes, he has ascended the majority Republican leadership to become one of the five most powerful senators in Washington.
Even though you may not know his name, the other guy argues that he should be reelected by Arizonans in November because people in Washington, and people in power, do know his name. He argues that his high stature is a benefit to his constituents and the state of Arizona.
This point, however, is up for debate.
Because opponents argue that the reason you don't know the other senator from Arizona is because he doesn't do much for Arizona. Yes, he is powerful, but he is powerful because he has spent his time in Washington kowtowing to the Bush administration and the radical right, very often to the detriment of Arizonans.
For example, our other senator is vehemently against "big" government, with "big" meaning federal spending for things other than defense. In the past 11 years, that has sometimes meant he will make a point of voting against federal spending packages such as highway funds that would have brought multimillion-dollar projects to Arizona.
He also consistently has cut spending for programs supporting senior citizens and students, while cutting taxes for the richest Americans, and voting for most any defense spending increases wanted by the Bush administration.
From his perspective, he is keeping America strong while trying to keep money in the pockets of those who earned it and who keep the U.S. economy rolling.
He is a staunch conservative, arguably one of the most conservative politicians in Washington, a conservative arguably locked in when Barry Goldwater's book Conscience of a Conservative was published in 1960.
That Goldwater moderated his politics greatly after the publication of that book seems lost on our other senator.
So here is the choice for Arizona voters:
If you want an Arizona senator more in the mold of past legends such as Carl Hayden, Goldwater and Dennis DeConcini -- guys who spent much of their time in Washington fighting for budgeted dollars to flow to oft-forgotten Arizona -- then your choice in November is our other senator's opponent, moderate Democrat Jim Pederson.
If you're not into conservative ideologues, if you're sick of the Bush administration, you also will want to vote for Pederson.
But, if you want to keep a powerful conservative voice in the federal government, if you want to keep a man who most everyone says is a hardworking, keenly intelligent, humble, civilized gentleman who seems always to be doing what he believes is best for America, then you should vote to keep the other guy.
Whose name, by the way, is . . .
Jon Kyl. The senator has just blown into his campaign office near 22nd Street and Camelback Road this early morning from a botched visit to the doctor's office. He had gone to get blood drawn, but the office staff wasn't available as promised, so he sat around for half an hour and had his tightly orchestrated campaign-day-back-home thrown to hell from the get-go.
For all Jon Kyl has done to limit malpractice suits against doctors, you'd think they could show up on time to take his blood.
So he arrives for an interview at his offices a bit disheveled, a bit peeved. He hates when people "get it wrong."
"It's very true," his communications director confirms.
"I think it's from being an attorney," Kyl notes as he straightens his tie. "You have to get it right or it's meaningless." But his upset is not too intense. No yelling. A few sighs. He regains composure quickly. He smiles a genuine smile and sits to talk.
He in every way carries himself as a WASPy Presbyterian Republican from the Midwest. Humble before God. But stern, quietly stern, in quiet imagination or reality a piece of the sound, diligent old rock on which America's greatness was built.
When such a posture goes sour, as it has in the Bush administration, it becomes a sort of Puritanical humility built upon the unspoken arrogance that godly white guys from Europe long ago corrected the formula for American supremacy.
Jon Kyl will be portrayed as such an arrogant Puritanical white patrician in the upcoming election cycle. Distant, elite, uncaring, ultimately damaging and dangerous. And it may work. Because of all the water he has carried for a fading George W. Bush, numerous national political analysts say Kyl is one of the most vulnerable incumbents in the U.S. Senate.
Kyl and his staff argue that he is not at all the radical conservative, or the Bush water boy, he is portrayed to be.
Kyl himself argues that he is a "pragmatist," yes, a student of Bill Buckley and early Goldwater, but just as much a model of his own father, the longtime moderate Republican congressman from Iowa, John Kyl with an "H."
"My father passed away three years ago, and that gets you thinking about the influences in your life and how your views came to be," Kyl says. "All these people -- my father, my grandmother -- were practical, common-sense people. And I've come to realize they had a huge influence on my life."
Kyl was born in northeastern Nebraska, near the small college town of Wayne, where his father led the chamber of commerce and served as a principal, then later, superintendent of schools. His father was a Republican, his grandmother "a Democrat who believed the world was started when Franklin Roosevelt took over." As he grew, though, he sided with his dad on the family arguments about the proper scope of the federal government.
In the 1950s, the Kyls moved to Iowa, where Kyl's father joined his brother in a clothing business. Once the children were raised, Kyl's father ran for Congress and won.
As John Kyl headed for Congress as a Republican, his son, Jon, headed for the University of Arizona as a Young Republican.
While his father was considered a moderate, Kyl's ideas quickly moved to the party's right. In the early 1960s, Kyl read and reread Goldwater's landmark Conscience of a Conservative (he soon after met Goldwater at a political seminar), as well as William Buckley's Up From Liberalism.
"Those books had a huge impact on me," he says now.
Kyl then spent the summer of 1963 back in Washington with his father. It was one of the headiest years in American politics. The South was being torn apart by racial strife, and John Kennedy was working toward civil rights legislation while trying not to offend the Southern Democrats in Congress. The United States had 15,000 "advisers" in Vietnam, the Cuban Missile Crisis was less than a year old. It seemed like war was breaking out everywhere.
Kyl's idol, Goldwater, was arguing for limited government and strong national defense in the months before he launched his campaign for the presidency.
And that year, the party was dividing along old lines: the Eastern corporate elite behind the more moderate Nelson Rockefeller, and the new Conservatives behind the rugged Western individualist, Barry Goldwater.
Goldwater got walloped in the 1964 presidential election, and was cast unfairly as a racist, radical warmonger in the process. But a new brand of Republican was born, one that later, in the form of Ronald Reagan and his followers in the Bush administrations, has directed U.S. policy for much of the past quarter-century.
Beginning in 1987, after his own children were grown, Jon Kyl became a voice for that Goldwater Conservatism in the U.S. House of Representatives. In 1994, he took those views to the Senate.
And now, in 2006, it can be argued that Kyl is the most powerful proponent of that pure Goldwater neo-con ideology in the country.
"There's no doubt my ideas about government come from that time," Kyl says of the early 1960s. "My father and Barry Goldwater both had an amazing understanding of human nature. I'd like to think I learned a lot about human nature from both of them."
Kyl's opponent, Jim Pederson, is driving down Interstate 10 toward a speaking engagement in his hometown of Casa Grande when he gets word of a massive protest in the streets of Phoenix.
An estimated 20,000 people are marching down Camelback Road toward Kyl's office to protest what they see as Draconian immigration bills sitting in Congress. The protesters are most angered by a House bill proposing felony charges on undocumented workers, but Kyl has sponsored an unpopular Senate bill and also sits on the Senate judiciary committee, which will oversee the writing of the legislation.
Kyl has proposed large increases in border security, interior enforcement of immigration laws and a crackdown on the employers of illegal immigrants.
Pederson says he had no idea such a protest was planned (another even larger march was held April 10 in Phoenix). And he has no idea what the ramification will be.
How can I get all the U.S. citizens in that crowd to a voting booth in November?
Considering it brought North 24th Street to a standstill, the march (and those like it in other U.S. cities) will do little to sway opinion that hordes of undocumented Mexican nationals are overrunning America.
But for Kyl's opponents, the protest says there is an issue in this election cycle capable of bringing the Hispanic voters to the polls en masse. And a strong Hispanic turnout is the stuff of nightmares to right-wing Republicans.
Pederson himself is trouble for Jon Kyl.
He is a legitimate threat, a successful Valley real estate mogul who made a minor legend of himself by taking over the chairmanship of a hapless Arizona Democratic Party in 2001 and infusing $2.4 million of his own money into a successful push to refocus the party apparatus on demographic groups within Arizona's massive untapped center. The year before he became party chairman, the Democrats couldn't even come up with an opponent for Jon Kyl. In 2002, after Pederson and his money arrived, Janet Napolitano and Terry Goddard won the state's two highest offices.
And Pederson is getting good at this candidate shtick. Generally perceived as a milquetoast, Pederson has picked up energy in recent months. He speaks with believably rousing conviction. He's pounding issues, rattling off stats.
It helps that Kyl is a pretty easy target.
"Without any real competition, Jon Kyl has been able to indulge his extremes," Pederson tells New Times. "He has a voting record to the right of Rick Santorum, for goodness' sakes! Is that Arizona? Absolutely not. Jon Kyl has nothing to do with Arizona."
Kyl and his staff argue that his voting record is more moderate than Pederson insists. They also say Kyl has strayed from the Bush administration on several votes.
Study his voting record, though, and Kyl has voted against the administration, or against what would be considered conservative legislation, in only a smattering of instances. And Kyl never went against the administration or the party's power elite on close votes. And never when his vote mattered.
This wouldn't be an issue if Dubya were still a popular president with a popular administration. But his numbers have plummeted, and mini-scandal after mini-scandal has ground at his credibility. Analysts say those in the Senate, like Kyl, who have pushed his agenda and the people he has chosen to hire have made themselves vulnerable.
That said, Kyl is still in the driver's seat.
For starters, Arizonans rarely toss out a sitting senator. Indeed, Arizona is known nationally as the state that treats its congressional delegates like lifelong appointees. Hayden, Goldwater, Paul Fannin and DeConcini, for example, with their combined century of service, all had to decide not to run to not get elected again.
And as Arizona State University political analyst Bruce Merrill points out, Kyl is not unliked. Indeed, he is respected "by both sides of the aisle . . . he is a hard worker . . . he has no integrity issues [and] he has as much money as he wants at his fingertips."
Also, it's an off-year election, which, in Arizona, tends to keep working moderate Democrats away from the polls while Arizona's vast swath of retiree Republicans keep coming out.
Also, Senator Paul Fannin's son, Bob, the former Republican Party chair, is Kyl's powerhouse campaign finance manager.
"If Jon needs $20 million to win," Merrill says, "Jon will get $20 million to win.
"But if anybody can put up a fight, it's Pederson. Kyl has a four or five percentage point advantage right out of the gate as a Republican, then add his money and that he's an incumbent, well, that's tough. But Pederson knows the odds and has proven he can find and make up the difference by counting noses and getting people to the polls."
The trick for Pederson, Merrill and others say, is to effectively tie Kyl to the unpopular administration he has pimped. And, beyond that, it is to explain how Kyl's voting record has adversely affected average Arizonans, particularly senior citizens and parents with kids in school.
"There is no question his voting record is quite conservative," Merrill says. "Is that what Arizona voters want out of their senator? I don't know. The trick will be to get [voters] to answer that question at the polls.
"With all these interesting elements coming together," Merrill says, "I really do believe this will be the featured race in the United States. For Arizonans, that will mean they're about to get every major Republican and Democratic celebrity in the country out here talking to them. It's just going to be a fascinating race."
Jon Kyl made a name for himself at the University of Arizona with his keen mind and big political ambitions. After getting his undergraduate degree, he entered the University of Arizona law school and was quickly one of his class' top students.
"I just love the law," Kyl says. "I especially got excited about natural law -- what is the nature of man? How can government best accommodate the competing interest?"
His voting record would indicate that he follows one of the key elements of natural law -- that the health and strength of the system relies on competing interests being allowed to duke it out on their own for supremacy.
At UofA, Kyl was the Alpha Preppie, graduating Phi Beta Kappa, editing the Arizona Law Review and meeting his longtime love, Caryll, at church one Sunday.
After school, Kyl landed a sweetheart job with Jennings, Strouss and Salmon, the Phoenix law firm that represented many of the state's most powerful people.
There, Kyl was part of a team of attorneys representing the Salt River Project. The team included Rex Lee, who later served as the president of Brigham Young University and U.S. Solicitor General, and Jack Pfister, who later became the longtime general manager of SRP.
In time, Kyl became the senior lawyer, and chief lobbyist, for the Salt River Project.
As such, he became deeply familiar with the machinery of state and federal government.
"Jon is a very bright, nimble thinker with an amazing grasp of complex policy issues," says Pfister, his old mentor and longtime friend, himself one of Arizona's elder statesmen. "In Washington, even though he's clearly a very conservative individual, he gets a lot of respect from Democrats for his work drafting and negotiating legislation. He's just a very gifted and respected legislator."
For example, Kyl has worked alongside California Democrat Dianne Feinstein for several years pushing for extended rights for crime victims.
Pfister himself is a moderate Republican, a "Pinto Republican," he says, parodying the name used for the middle-of-the-road "Pinto Democrats" of Arizona. He has several times found himself at odds with his considerably more conservative friend, particularly on social issues. But Pfister says Kyl has always been respectful of his position, and Kyl, he says, "is not at all a fake" in his conservative values.
"Jon is Jon," Pfister says. "He lives modestly, he is frugal, he has the highest level of integrity, he's not at all a flashy guy or a guy who acts out of expedience. I do believe he deeply respected his father and what he represented, and I think he has modeled that sort of Midwestern Conservatism in his life. You can disagree with his views, but I have never questioned that he is a genuine, good man."
Kyl, he says, has helped Arizona "more than people realize." Pfister says Kyl has been a strong supporter of the Central Arizona Project, the massive federal canal project to bring Colorado River water into central Arizona. Kyl has consistently fought against closures or cutbacks to Arizona's military bases.
One of Kyl's great achievements was the landmark Arizona Water Settlements Act of 2004, the result of 15 years of work by Kyl and several dozen Indian communities and other stakeholders that, Pfister says, "essentially secures Arizona's water supply for decades to come."
Rita Maguire, former director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources, worked closely with Kyl throughout the Water Settlements process. She has only good things to say about Kyl's role in bringing about a settlement many thought was impossible.
In the months before the settlement, Kyl was flying in to Phoenix from Washington on Fridays and spending much of his weekends hashing out details of the agreement. Maguire says he was constantly bouncing from meetings with the different parties, "lunch here, dinner there, he was always moving," she says. "It was amazing to watch his energy and commitment to getting the deal done."
"One Friday night, my daughter and I drive into our driveway and we notice we've been followed by this beat-up old Suburban," Maguire says. "Well, it's Jon, and he jumps out of that thing and is all excited about something he had forgotten to tell me in an early meeting. That was it. He was just really earnest, really dedicated."
But it was by no means fun, Kyl tells New Times in the interview.
Says Maguire, "To put it simply, that landmark water deal -- that very, very important, very complicated settlement to make sure we have water -- wouldn't have happened without him and his keen mind and all his hard work. It's just that simple."
What isn't so simple, Kyl's critics say, is why a guy who is so seemingly thoughtful and civilized can have the voting record of a Jesse Helms, the retired Republican senator from North Carolina.
While John McCain is seen as an independent-thinking moderate Republican, Jon Kyl is considered in lockstep with the Republican Party's far right.
Kyl loves big American business. He is good to the very rich. He has backed the Bush administration on every significant position regarding the war in Iraq, the "war on terror" and growth in defense spending. He has continuously defended the actions of military interrogators at Guantánamo and has been supportive of widespread government eavesdropping powers to combat terrorism.
In an in-depth analysis of voting records, the National Journal gave Kyl a 91 percent conservative rating, topped only by Senator Craig Thomas (R-Wyoming) with 92 percent. John McCain, by comparison, had a 52 percent "moderate" rating.
Studying Congressional Quarterly voting records, Kyl has sided with the president's position 96 percent of the time. When Dubya was up for reelection in 2004, Kyl voted with him 100 percent of the time.
That was the year that the Sierra Club held a press conference announcing that Kyl had a "0 percent" voting record on pro-environment legislation.
One of those votes was against John McCain's legislation to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Kyl on numerous instances has belittled research suggesting greenhouse gasses are contributing to global warming.
Kyl has voted nine times to open up Alaska to oil drilling.
He also voted against international cooperation to limit greenhouse gasses.
Sandy Bahr, longtime leader of the Arizona chapter of the Sierra Club, says Kyl has been "disastrous" on environmental issues. She says Kyl consistently put out false information essentially blaming environmentalists for the massive Rodeo-Chediski fire in east-central Arizona in 2002, pushed for Gale Norton for Interior Secretary ("who has done more damage administratively than we ever thought possible by one person," Bahr says), and has consistently supported a rollback of the Clean Air Act.
"Did you like the air over downtown Phoenix this winter?" Bahr asks. "If you didn't, talk to Jon Kyl, because he didn't think it was a problem."
Regarding war power, Kyl was one of 19 senators in 2005 to vote against requiring the president to submit a report to Congress every three months on U.S. policy and operations in Iraq.
He has consistently sided with federal interrogators and investigators in cases seemingly in violation of constitutional habeas corpus and privacy rights.
In 1997, Kyl opposed a treaty banning the use of chemical weapons.
At the same time, Kyl opposed the production of Humvees with improved armor to help protect soldiers from roadside bombs.
Kyl also has consistently sided with pharmaceutical companies on issues regarding Medicare and senior citizens.
In a 379-8 House vote in 1987 in support of the Older Americans Act -- which included Meals on Wheels -- Kyl was one of the eight.
He voted to roll back laws protecting Medicare patients against overcharging by physicians.
In the late 1990s, he proposed legislation allowing doctors to refuse to treat Medicare patients. In 2005, Kyl cast the deciding vote against an amendment that would have allowed the federal government to negotiate for lower drug prices under Medicare.
He also consistently harpooned federal assistance to college students. And he has not been much of a friend to the state's universities, colleges or any other federally assisted school programs.
He has for decades been vehemently opposed to abortion as well as stem-cell research.
And Kyl's record on civil rights is just plain disturbing.
In 1987, while opposing the creation of the Martin Luther King holiday in Arizona, Kyl mocked those who said it would hurt tourism in Arizona.
"I say fine," Kyl said in a story in the Red Rock News. "Let them go someplace else. . . . We've got much too nice a place to worry about attracting people to the state."
On Native Americans, from the Navajo-Hopi Observer:
"I'm concerned that too many Indian people -- and I will not characterize where they come from -- talk about trust and responsibility when they really mean, deep in their heart, having someone take care of them."
When Trent Lott praised Strom Thurmond's notoriously racist 1948 campaign platform in 2002, Kyl dismissed Lott's remarks, saying, "He was trying to make an old man feel good, and there's nothing wrong with that."
Kyl voted against providing federal assistance to states and local jurisdictions to prosecute hate crimes. He voted against expanding the federal Hate Crimes law. And in 2001, he voted in the judiciary committee against expanding the areas covered by hate crimes laws to include gender, sexual orientation and disability.
A committee he heads, the Senate Republican Policy Committee, is urging a constitutional gay-marriage ban.
In 1994, a New Times reporter accompanied Kyl on the campaign trail. In Yuma, at a Republican event, an old woman asked Kyl a loaded question about African-Americans:
"Isn't it true that before he got shot, Lincoln was planning on sending all them blacks back to Africa?" Someone in the crowd then blurted out: "That's what he should have done!" A few people laughed.
Kyl's reaction, you could argue, sums up his career when it comes to dealing with the radical end of his party.
"Well," he said from the podium, "I've read a lot about Lincoln, and I've never heard that."
With the reporter, Kyl later reflected on the moment:
"You just want to grab people like that and shake them, and say, 'Don't you realize how that sounds?' It was an ugly thing to say. But what are you going to do? She was an old lady.
"And we need her, and those like her, to win."
Jon Kyl began that 1994 campaign believing he was running against three-term U.S. Senator Dennis DeConcini.
At the time, DeConcini was struggling to brush off the effects of the Keating Five scandal. He seemed to be bouncing back, but not long into the campaign cycle, he decided not to run for reelection.
Kyl won. And with that win, the makeup of Arizona's Washington delegation changed profoundly.
With DeConcini, Arizona had a moderate political voice, but, more important, it had at least one U.S. senator who made it a priority to bring federal money back to his state.
DeConcini emulated Carl Hayden in that respect. Hayden knew that Arizona would never thrive without massive federal help, particularly for water projects. Hayden knew that in Washington, money doesn't flow to the western states without a fight. Hayden spent more than half a century in the House and Senate fighting for Arizona projects.
DeConcini, with Barry Goldwater, continued that fight. They brought tens of millions of dollars in extra outlays for the Central Arizona Project, while consistently battling for extra funding for Arizona universities, roads and civic projects.
John McCain is not a "homeboy" senator in that mold.
Jon Kyl, with his strong ideological stance against big government, definitely has not been a "bring home the bacon" senator, either.
DeConcini argues that this is Kyl's biggest failing.
"The best thing for Arizona are senators and members of Congress who will bring funds to Arizona whether they are authorized or unauthorized if they believe they are important to Arizona," the former senator turned lobbyist tells New Times. "Most of the Arizona delegation doesn't do that. To be honest, I think they just don't want to do it. It's hard work. You have to cut deals. But in the end, it is the work you have to do for the betterment of the state of Arizona."
DeConcini called Kyl recently to tell him he would be supporting Pederson. Like so many others, DeConcini says he respects Kyl as a person. He just doesn't agree with his politics.
Needless to say, Kyl is in the catbird position in Washington to be a powerful voice for Arizona interests. Indeed, he argues this is one reason he should be reelected.
"I'm part of the leadership now," he says. "I'm in a much better position to help than in the past."
But opponents argue that Kyl has used his leadership only to gain more power in the national Republican Party. And to gain power in the Republican Party, you have to curry favor from the party's right. And you do that by making points about taxation and federal spending. And you make those points by cutting government programs while reducing taxation on the wealthy to "unleash the economy."
For example, Kyl voted against a federal highway funding package that would have brought money to widen I-10. The package, he said, was full of pork (which it was), and also, he argued, did not give enough to Arizona.
He was right. But, opponents say, instead of complaining about the paltry end product, what Kyl should have done -- and consistently has failed to do -- is fight for more money for Arizona from the get-go: when the spending packages are getting hashed out in committees and in back rooms.
"Here's an example," DeConcini offers. "If Luke Air Force Base needs new housing, but the committee of jurisdiction to build housing doesn't authorize it, his position is it's a done deal. But I [would push for] $25 million for that anyway. The key here is this: That money will not go to reduce the federal deficit, it will go [to a project in some other state]. To make a specious ideological argument that you're reducing the deficit by not taking the money, and then let that money go elsewhere, is just bad for Arizona."
This point is bolstered by the fact that Kyl stepped down from the Senate Appropriations Committee to join the Senate Finance Committee.
Appropriations is the plum assignment for any "bring home the bacon" senator. Finance, which essentially handles broader federal taxation issues, is the plum for big- or small-government ideologues.
Kyl, however, says this argument is bogus.
"I have done very well for Arizona in my positions," he says. "From funding to make our forests healthy again, to helping the Indian tribes with their roads and medical needs, to meeting the challenge of illegal immigration, I'm in a very strong position to help the people of Arizona."
In 1986, Jon Kyl was on the verge of becoming a partner in his powerful law firm.
He would have become a very wealthy man.
But that year, Eldon Rudd announced he wasn't running again for Congress at the same time Jon Kyl's children were reaching maturity. Like his father, Kyl decided it was time for him to dedicate his life to public service.
"He sat down with his wife, Caryll, who really is his partner, and decided it was time," says Bob Fannin, his longtime friend and adviser. "I know for a fact he gave up a lot of money to do it. He could have been a rich man. But he decided this was more important."
For the next 20 years, Fannin says, Kyl has been tireless in his efforts to shape U.S. policy "in what he sincerely believes is the best interests of the country."
"It's difficult to fully state how important he's been for this country. He reads everything. He is the man who understands policy as well as anyone in Washington. Because of that, people go to him as the expert on crafting legislation and getting things accomplished. He won't say it because he's so humble, but he really is one of the critical figures in Washington right now."
Fannin thinks so much of Kyl that the former party chairman agreed to be the senator's campaign finance chairman.
Between Fannin and Kyl, the fund-raising potential is almost limitless.
"Oh, my," says political analyst Bruce Merrill. "It could get crazy. Kyl is extremely powerful, and there will be a lot of extremely powerful, wealthy interests who don't want to see him go. He will be able to raise whatever his people believe he needs to raise."
In other words, the Arizona senator will probably have the wealthiest campaign coffers and most expensive campaign in the history of Arizona politics.
But Jim Pederson, his opponent, is actually rich. And Pederson proved in his guidance of the party through the Napolitano and Goddard races that Democrats and Independents are willing to throw money at the party if Jim Pederson throws his money first.
"It will be a very well-financed race on both sides," Merrill says.
For his part, Kyl does not seem to be taking the challenge lightly. His schedule is already divided between senator time and candidate time, with the weekdays usually spent in Washington and the weekends usually spent raising money and talking to groups of well-wishers.
What Kyl may need to do, though, is venture outside his comfort zone, something he has seemed loath to do in his 20 years of public life. He preaches well to the choir at Republican fund raisers, he is a whiz in policy debates or negotiations, but he seems ill-at-ease in front of television cameras or mingling with crowds of nonpartisan Arizonans.
This self-imposed isolation -- especially from the news media -- has taken a toll.
For a two-term incumbent, Kyl is almost laughably unknown to most Americans and to many Arizonans.
For example, in one ASU poll conducted by Merrill, 97 percent of Arizonans knew who John McCain was.
In the same poll, only about 55 percent of Arizonans knew who Jon Kyl was.
"He's the other senator," Merrill says. "While McCain is this dynamic guy who probably understands the power of the media better than anyone, Kyl is just the opposite. He doesn't seek notoriety, and he doesn't get notoriety. And I just can't say for sure how much that fact is going to hurt him in a race with a truly legitimate candidate like Pederson.
"Luckily for Kyl," Merrill quickly adds, "Jim Pederson isn't much different. They're both intelligent, thoughtful guys, but I don't think anyone would call either one of them 'dynamic.'"
With Pederson's attributes, and Kyl's weaknesses, Merrill still, for the moment, is predicting a Kyl victory.
If that happens, Kyl promises to better represent the state on issues that Arizonans really care about.
"I will be committed to gaining control of our border," he vows. "We just must rise up to meet the challenge of illegal immigration."
Whether he would continue to support the Bush administration and seek ways to make undocumented workers already in the United States legal, or whether he would truly represent the wishes of right-wing voters in the state -- who want illegal immigrants forced out of the country or jailed -- remains to be seen.
It could truly be a test of whether loyalty would rule over ideology.
And if he wins, Kyl promises not to slip off into any judicial or administration positions. His name has been bandied about for everything from Supreme Court justice to Secretary of Defense.
He's a Republican Party animal. He says that's why he won't step down from his position.
"This is the pinnacle, as far as I'm concerned," he says. "But first of all, I can't take another position because Governor Napolitano would get to appoint my successor. And that just is not going to happen."
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Phoenix New Times' biggest stories.
- Metro Phoenix Labor Day Weekend DUI Checkpoints
Sat., Sep. 12, 6:00pm
Sat., Sep. 12, 8:00pm
Sun., Sep. 13, 1:05pm
Mon., Sep. 14, 6:40pm
- Southwest Cannabis Conference Coming to Phoenix Next Month
- Mentally Ill Teen Who Killed Middle-Age Lover Takes Second-Degree Murder Plea Deal