John McCain unloads on Donald Trump: "He's fired up the crazies"

2008 GOP nominee isn't a big fan of the carnival barker leading early 2016 polls

By Sophia Tesfaye

Senior Politics Editor

Published July 16, 2015 1:27PM (EDT)

  (Jeff Malet,
(Jeff Malet,

“It’s very bad.”

John McCain is none too pleased watching Donald Trump's ascent to the top of the Republican presidential field, and the Arizona Republican Senator was quick to call out voters in his own party for their support of the real-estate mogul in a new interview with the New Yorker.

“We have a very extreme element within our Republican Party,” McCain said. “Now he galvanized them. He’s really got them activated.”

A recent Trump rally in Phoenix drew an estimated 5,000 supporters.

“We’ll see how this plays out, but there is some anger in my state ... people who otherwise might be more centrist are angry about this border situation,” McCain said, recalling last summer's surge of unaccompanied minors at the U.S.-Mexico border.

McCain, whom the New Yorker's Ryan Lizza described as "eager to talk about Trump," has previously called him "a wrecking ball for the future of the Republican Party," and urged Republican voters to ignore Trump in favor of a GOP candidate who supports comprehensive immigration reform like his Senate colleague and friend Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

Republicans “need to reject this demagoguery. If we don’t, we will lose and we will deserve to lose,” McCain said, telling the New Yorker that he was certain once GOP primary voters learned more about Trump, he'd lose support. “He was a big Democratic supporter,” McCain pointed out. “Some of this stuff is going to come out: he gave more money to Democrats than Republicans, he had Hillary Clinton at his wedding. You know, he’s attacking Hillary Clinton after she was in the front row of his," McCain recalled, shadily adding "I don’t know which wedding it was.”

McCain also shared his opinion of another Republican running for president, fellow Senator Marco Rubio, who flip-flopped on his support for comprehensive immigration reform after joining with McCAin as part of the Gang of Eight:

McCain licked his finger, held it up in the air, and laughed.

“You know that old song from before you were born?” McCain said, speaking of the Bob Dylan classic, “Subterranean Homesick Blues.” “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.”

McCain, for the record, has his own history of putting his finger to the political wind on immigration.

By Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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2016 Elections Donald Trump John Mccain R-ariz.