Will Jan Brewer's Endorsement Help John McCain?

As former Arizona Governor Jan Brewer appears to take a short break from campaigning for Donald Trump in order to announce her official endorsement of Senator John McCain in his bid for re-election, some wonder whether it will help him finally win some support with the conservative wing of the Republican party whose votes he desperately will need come November.

In a video paid for by McCain and uploaded to YouTube, Brewer, who's revered by Trump and right-wingers alike, delivers a scripted speech about why she supports McCain.

"In this time of great instability in our world, I am comforted with the knowledge that John McCain is the chairman of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee," she begins, then goes on to call him "an American hero, an American icon, and an Arizona treasure."

Continues Brewer: "John McCain knows the cost of war, the sacrifices of lives, loved ones, and liberty. John McCain has paid that price, and I trust him with our nation's security ... There are very few things we can be confident about in the ever-changing world we live in, but one thing I know: The United States of America and the people of Arizona are safer with John McCain in the Senate."

Over the past few months, as McCain has ramped up his campaign and touted his foreign-policy cred, he has also pretty much done everything in his power to avoid talking about whether he'll endorse Trump. (This after Trump famously said of McCain's military record, "He's not a war hero. He's a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren't captured." And McCain accused Trump of having "fired up the crazies" in Arizona.)

In any other year the McCain-Trump tension might not be a big deal, but given that polls show McCain struggling to win over the far-right segment of his Republican base and failing to put away his Democratic rival, Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, political analysts say he can't risk alienating Trump supporters any more than he already has.

(Kirkpatrick, meanwhile, points out McCain's awkward relationship with Trump at every opportunity. Asked about Brewer's endorsement of her opponent, Kirkpatrick campaign spokesman D.B. Mitchell joked, "Is Governor Brewer endorsing the John McCain who praised SB1070 and demanded that we 'complete the danged fence' in 2010, or the John McCain who called Trump supporters like herself 'crazies' in this election?")
Brewer has become an increasingly vocal Trump supporter, appearing on dozens of national political talk shows and newscasts to laud the presumptive Republican nominee — some say she's on Trump's short list for vice president — making it hard not to conclude that the McCain campaign is going all out to shore up the state's conservative base.

Democratic political consultant Andy Barr certainly thinks so, but adds in an e-mail to New Times that he's skeptical it will work.

"Jan Brewer’s endorsement is worth about as much as the bowl of scorpions she ate for breakfast — and it’s probably just as toxic. The last public poll I saw with Brewer’s [favorability/unfavorability ratings] had her at 41/47, though I guess that’s still not as bad as McCain’s numbers. 

"Nothing is going to make the Republican base like John McCain," Barr adds, "so if you’re the McCain campaign, I guess I get accepting the endorsement, but promoting it beyond superconservative white dudes (who are never going to like McCain) is a really dumb idea."

Not surprisingly, Chuck Coughlin, a political consultant with AZ Highground who has worked for McCain in the past, disagrees with Barr's assessment.

"I know everyone wants to read Trump into this thing," Coughlin says, "and there is a little dichotomy with the Trump campaign, but I think her personal relationship to John outweighs all of it."

Asked if he's surprised that Brewer endorsed McCain over his main Republican rival and fellow outspoken Trump supporter, Dr. Kelli Ward, Coughlin essentially says no: "Kelli was a disaster to the governor," he explains, citing a dispute the two had over Medicaid expansion in 2013.

"I don't think she has any fondness for Kelli, and Kelli hasn't supported her in the past."

Ward declined to comment on whether Brewer's support for McCain surprised her. "Governor Brewer’s superlative leadership on the immigration issue ironically highlights Senator McCain’s biggest weakness: that he has had 34 years in Congress to stop illegal immigration and secure the most important battleground in the war on terrorism, Arizona’s border, but all he has to show for it are endless amnesty proposals," she said. "The governor and I both support Donald Trump enthusiastically, but Senator McCain is trying to ride the fence, calling on delegates to change their votes at will and calling his supporters 'crazies.'"

Brewer's endorsement was one of three by former Arizona governors announced this morning — the other two being Fife Symington and Jane Hull — and comes about a month before McCain takes on Ward, businessman Alex Meluskey, and Tea Party darling Clair Van Steenwyk in the Republican primary.

In a scripted video uploaded to YouTube on Tuesday, former Arizona Governor Jan Brewer came out in support of U.S. Senator John McCain's re-election bid:

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Miriam is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Miriam Wasser