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click to enlarge John McCain: No Supreme Court pick for you, Obama!

J.D. Fitzgerald

John McCain: No Supreme Court pick for you, Obama!

No Justice This Year?

Sen. McCain joins those who want to block Obama from appointing a replace for Scalia

Count Sen. John McCain among those who believe the U.S. Senate should block any nominee that President Barack Obama attempts to appoint to the U.S. Supreme Court to replace Justice Antonin Scalia, who died over the weekend in Texas.

"The president can nominate who he wants to," McCain said during an appearance earlier this week on Mike Broomhead's Phoenix radio show. "I believe we should wait until after the next election and let the American people pick the next president and we should consider who the next president of the United States nominates."

Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick (D-CD1), who is running for McCain's seat this year, pounced on McCain's announcement.

"Members of the U.S. Senate have an obligation to uphold the Constitution and fulfill their duties, including voting on Supreme Court nominees—regardless of party affiliation," Kirkpatrick told the press via a prepared statement. "John McCain used to take that responsibility seriously. Unfortunately, his comments today show just how much he has changed after more than three decades in Washington. Now is the time to put politics aside and do the right thing for our nation. I urge my colleagues in the Senate to live up to their oaths to the American people and hold up-or-down votes on any nominees put forward."

McCain himself has generally supported giving a president a lot of leeway when it comes to appointing justices. Kirkpatrick cited McCain's votes in favor of Clinton appointees Justices Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsberg, as McCain himself explained in 2005, "because I believed that President Clinton won the election." And during a battle over whether the Senate should do away with the filibuster of federal judges, McCain was a member of the "gang of 14" that sought to preserve the power of the minority to block judicial appointments because he believed it was important to the political norms and the institution of the Senate.

At the time, McCain told MSNBC Hardball host Chris Matthews: "I strongly believe that the president's nominees deserve an up-or-down vote and that there was an abuse of that power, and we need to fix that. And we need to do it with an agreement where we can all trust one another."

But this year, McCain is facing a primary challenge from former state lawmaker Kelli Ward, who is hammering him for the various times that he has gone against the wishes of the hard-core conservatives in Arizona. While Ward's effort to unseat McCain is still considered a long shot—she had less than $260,000 in the bank at the beginning of the year and she has yet to win over major national groups that might help her such as the Senate Conservatives Fund—McCain has been tacking to the right to inoculate himself from Ward's attacks.

Raul's Pick

Congressman Grijalva endorses Steele in CD2 primary, but national Dems abandon the race against McSally

Democrat Victoria Steele has landed the endorsement of Congressman Raul Grijalva in her quest for the Democratic nomination to take on Republican Congresswoman Martha McSally.

At a press conference Tuesday morning, Grijalva praised Steele's support for abortion rights, immigration reform, education, the Affordable Care Act and equal pay for women.

"Victoria represents big goals and big ideas and this country needs both," Grijalva said. "I'm proud to endorse her. We are at her behest in terms of what we can do to help."

Steele thanked Grijalva for his "strong and honest leadership."

"When elected, I look forward to working with Congressman Grijalva on all of the progressive issues he has championed so hard for so many years, from raising the minimum wage to fighting for a reasonable path to citizenship to combatting climate change."

The endorsement of the left-leaning Grijalva could help Steele in a Democratic primary against former state lawmaker and physician Matt Heinz, but it might prove a liability in winning the Congressional District 2 seat in a November general.

CD2, which includes eastern Pima County and all of Cochise County, is basically one-third Democrat, one-third Republican and one-third independent, so it's a competitive district on paper. But the previous Democrats to win the seat, Gabby Giffords and Ron Barber, both ran as moderate Democrats and kept their distance from Grijalva.

In a sign that McSally is in good shape to win in November, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee last week announced its list of 31 targeted districts—and CD2 was not included.

On top of that, national forecaster Larry Sabato updated his list of competitive races and moved CD2 from "toss-up" to "leans Republican." That's a few weeks after Stu Rothenberg moved the race from "lean Republican" to "Republican favored."

McSally campaign spokesman Patrick Ptak said that the national Democratic Party machine is "giving up on re-taking her seat."

"Congresswoman McSally hit the ground running from day one and continues to rack up achievements for her constituents that include successfully protecting the A-10 and getting a veterans jobs-bill signed into law," Ptak said in a bulletin to reporters. "Given her impressive start and the Democrats' complete 180, it's clear they now consider her unbeatable."

The DCCC's decision to steer clear from CD2 undoubtedly has a lot to do with money. McSally has a lot of it—she was sitting on about $2 million at the end of 2015—while the Democrats don't. Heinz has raised a relatively respectable $400,000, but Steele will need to step on the gas to get national Democrats to get engaged: She had only raised about $100,000 by the end of 2015 and had less than $44,000 in the bank.

And the cold hard reality of cold hard cash drives a lot the decisions made by the DCCC (as well as the National Republican Congressional Committee). They have limited resources and a big map—and at this point, they're committing those funds elsewhere.

Steele campaign manager Keith Rosendahl downplayed the development.

"I don't think Southern Arizonan's care much about what national political operators are doing in Washington, D.C.," he said. "The people that I meet with every day are interested in discussing how we are going to protect a woman's right to her own health choices, what can be done to create more stable jobs with living wages and the importance of protecting Social Security and Medicare for generations to come."

Heinz campaign strategist Bill Scheel said via Twitter that he expected "the national Dem map will expand" if reality TV star Donald Trump or Sen. Ted Cruz become the Republican presidential nominee.

Zona Politics with Jim Nintzel airs at 8 a.m. Sunday on the CW Tucson, Channel 8 on Cox and Comcast and Channel 58 on Dish, DirecTV and broadcast. You can hear the show on KXCI, 91.3 FM, at 5 p.m. Sundays or watch it online at zonapolitics.com. This week's guests are former state lawmaker Jonathan Paton and Democratic strategist Rodd McLeod.


More by Jim Nintzel

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