Phoenix, Arizona - Mar. 6, 2010
Newly elected GOP Sen. Scott Brown, who rocked the political world by winning the Senate seat long held by the late Edward Kennedy, on Friday helped rally support for Sen. John McCain, the only Republican who lent him a hand when he was down in the polls and considered an impossible long shot in liberal Massachusetts.
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Brown said he was eager to repay McCain, R-Ariz., who now is embroiled in a closely watched Senate primary race as he seeks his fifth term.
"The only person who actually met me was Senator McCain," Brown told an enthusiastic crowd of more than 1,000 people at Grand Canyon University's gym in west Phoenix.
"The only guy, right here, who not only gave me a check (but) endorsed me, gave me the encouragement I needed."
Tapping into widespread anti-Washington sentiment and voter angst over the explosion of federal spending, Brown surged from behind in the Jan. 19 Massachusetts election to defeat front-runner Martha Coakley, the state's Democratic attorney general. A turning point came during a debate in which Brown memorably made the point that the Senate seat he was running for belonged to the people, not Kennedy.
"If it's the people's seat in Arizona, then the right person is in it, because you have somebody who has been fighting against government waste," Brown told The Arizona Republic during a brief interview after the noontime rally.
"As he's pointed out, (McCain) hasn't won any popularity contests up there (in Washington)," Brown said. "He rankles people's feathers because he's been fighting against the waste and corruption up there since long before it became chic. So, to try to pin him as a Washington insider is really disingenuous. I don't think people believe it, based on his record of independence and maverick style."
Former Rep. J.D. Hayworth, a former conservative radio talk-show host, and Jim Deakin, a conservative small-business owner, are challenging McCain in the Aug. 24 primary.
Hayworth's campaign has attempted to paint McCain as too liberal on hot-button issues such as illegal immigration and disconnected from the priorities of Arizona voters.
In a written statement, Hayworth suggested Brown's GOP star power won't help McCain much.
"We all understand gratitude and welcome him to the state in that spirit but also recognize it will be the Scott Browns from Mesa and Glendale deciding this election between a conservative and a moderate," said Hayworth, who served six terms in the House before losing to Democrat Harry Mitchell in the 2006 election.
At the rally, McCain hailed Brown as "one of the great political heroes in American political history" and called his Massachusetts victory "the election heard 'round the world."
McCain later told The Republic that he was touched that Brown would come to Arizona and campaign even though it meant missing his daughter playing in a college basketball tournament.
"He's a national figure," McCain said. "People want to meet him, shake his hand."
Brown also heaped praise on McCain: "This is somebody who I grew up admiring and respecting, and now I actually get to serve with him? It's overwhelming sometimes."
Also Friday, McCain picked up the endorsement of Barry Goldwater Jr., whose father, the late Sen. Barry Goldwater, R-Ariz., previously held McCain's seat. The senior Goldwater was the 1964 Republican presidential nominee and is considered one of the fathers of modern conservatism.
Speaking at the Grand Canyon University rally, Goldwater said McCain is part of Arizona's long tradition of influential, long-serving senators and representatives who included Goldwater's father; Sen. Carl Hayden, D-Ariz.; former House Minority Leader John Rhodes, R-Ariz.; and Rep. Morris Udall, D-Ariz.
"You don't throw away that seniority for somebody who's going to start out on the back bench," said Goldwater, a former California congressman.
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