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Sen. McCain worries about a weak GOP nominee

The five-term Arizona senator may be targeted by the Tea Party as he seeks reelection next year.

By Ann Marie Awad
Sen. McCain worries about a weak GOP nominee
Ariz. Sen. John McCain speaks to reporters at a breakfast hosted by The Christian Science Monitor. Source: C-SPAN

WASHINGTON, Dec. 3 (UPI) -- Sen. John McCain expressed concern about the leading GOP candidates for president, saying that a weak party pick could jeopardize GOP control of Congress.

At a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor on Wednesday, the Arizona Republican said that if a weak candidate is chosen as the GOP nominee, Republicans defending House and Senate seats next year could suffer.

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"Obviously, we all know from history that if you have a weak top of the ticket, that has a significant effect on the states, particularly the swing states," McCain said. "I hate to refer to Barry Goldwater, who I loved and admired, but the fact is when Barry Goldwater lost, [Republicans] lost big-time."

Goldwater lost a 1964 presidential bid against President Lyndon Johnson.

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McCain pointed to an incumbent colleague whose reelection bid may be negatively impacted by a weak nominee: New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who's running for reelection against Gov. Maggie Hassan.

"By the way, I'm confident that Kelly will win, don't get me wrong, but I think it's a bigger lift," he said.

BallotPedia reports 24 Republican-held and 10 Democratic-held Senate seats are up for reelection in 2016. In the House, all 435 seats will be up for election. The GOP holds a majority in both houses.

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The Monitor reports McCain has promised his support to whoever garners the party's presidential nomination.

Yahoo Politics reported the five-term Senator also called for civility among GOP candidates, saying that candidates who encourage hateful behavior among supporters are "complicit." He pointed to an incident at a Birmingham, Ala. rally for front-runner Donald Trump, where 31-year-old Black Lives Matter protester Mercutio Southall was beaten by several Trump supporters. CNN reported Southall and others had been shouting "Dump the Trump" and "Black Lives Matter."

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Trump's campaign issued a statement saying it "does not condone" the incident, but the following day, Trump told Fox News: "Maybe he should have been roughed up because it was absolutely disgusting what he was doing."

McCain's approach has drawn ire from his own party in the past. During the 2008 presidential campaign, the Senator defended his opponent, now-President Barack Obama, from accusations that Obama was a "terrorist."

At the time, McCain said: "He's a decent family man [and] citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues, and that's what this campaign's all about. He's not [an Arab]."

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At Wednesday's event, McCain defended the move.

"You have to do what's right. No matter what the cost is, you have to do what's right. Otherwise you will lose in the long run, even if you win, you lose, speaking as the loser," he said. "You just must have a level of political discourse."

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