Friday, February 08, 2008

Raising Arizona, McCain and Goldwater

After Super Tuesday, John McCain told local supporters they were "a little bit closer to the day when mothers in Arizona might be able to tell their children that someday they could grow up to be president of the United States."

That wry comment has a history with relevance to McCain's situation today. Since Arizona became a state in 1912, the only other resident to win nomination for President was Barry Goldwater in 1964, who lost to Lyndon Johnson by a crushing margin.

His defeat marked both the mistrust of "extremism" at that time and the emergence of a conservative movement that culminated in Ronald Reagan's election in 1980 and is now in crisis after George W. Bush's two terms to start the new century.

As McCain moves toward becoming the second Arizonan to make a run for the White House, his candidacy reflects that history and raises questions about another turning point in Republican history.

Goldwater aroused the fears of his party that he was too conservative. McCain is facing doubts over whether he is conservative enough.

Their Arizona temperaments are part of the equation--plain-spoken, proud and independent. Goldwater was just as mistrusted by the Eastern Republican Establishment of his time as McCain now is by the Evangelical Base today.

Will his fate be different?

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