Over the weekend, Donald Trump held a rally in Phoenix, Arizona, that attracted several thousand people. He shared the stage with the father of a man who was killed by an undocumented immigrant—and Trump continued his rant against illegal immigration that began when he launched his campaign and started to surge in the polls. Not every Republican in Arizona was pleased with Trump’s visit. Senator John McCain, the Party’s Presidential nominee in 2008, reacted to the event with dismay.
“It’s very bad,” McCain, who was eager to talk about Trump, told me on Monday when I stopped by his Senate office. The Senator is up for reëlection in 2016, and he pays close attention to how the issue of immigration is playing in his state. He was particularly rankled by Trump’s rally. “This performance with our friend out in Phoenix is very hurtful to me,” McCain said. “Because what he did was he fired up the crazies.”
McCain, who has long supported comprehensive immigration reform and was a member of the so-called Gang of Eight that successfully pushed immigration legislation through the Senate in 2013, has been at war with the far right in Arizona for years. “We have a very extreme element within our Republican Party,” McCain said. He then noted that he was personally censured by Arizona Republicans in January of 2014 and has been fighting to push out the extremists in the state G.O.P. ever since. “We did to some degree regain control of the Party.”
But McCain fears that Trump may be reversing those gains. “Now he galvanized them,” McCain said. “He’s really got them activated.”
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