John McCain's Trumpian nightmare: New poll shows veteran Arizona senator in the political fight of his life

As McCain stumbles over chemtrails, he likely won't have either Donald Trump or Sarah Palin to turn to for help

By Sophia Tesfaye

Senior Politics Editor

Published May 18, 2016 5:41PM (EDT)

Republican Arizona Senator John McCain has already admitted he is in the political fight of his life. The former Republican presidential nominee announced early this year that he would actually skip out on this year's Republican National Convention in Cleveland to focus on campaigning for re-election in Arizona, where he faces a tough primary challenge.

“If Donald Trump is at the top of the ticket, here in Arizona, with over 30 percent of the vote being the Hispanic vote, no doubt that this may be the race of my life,” McCain recently said a closed door fundraiser:

Now a new poll points to the data behind McCain's fears. According to Public Policy Polling (PPP), the five-term senator "is at pretty serious risk of losing nomination for another term":

Only 35% of GOP voters approve of the job McCain is doing to 50% who disapprove.

McCain is polling at only 39% in the Republican primary field. He’s benefiting from having multiple opponents. Kelli Ward is at 26%, Alex Meluskey at 4%, Scott McBean at 3%, and Clair Van Steenwyk at 2%. 27% are undecided…. When you narrow the field down to just a choice between McCain and Ward, it’s a tie at 41%. Ward is polling this competitively at this point despite having only 41% name recognition.

Even if McCain does manage to survive the Republican primary, it's not going to be a walk in the park for him in the general. His overall approval rating is 34/52, and he leads Ann Kirkpatrick only 42/36 in a head to head match up. The race is close despite Kirkpatrick having only 58% name recognition at this point.

These dreadful numbers for McCain come as the presidential candidate at the top of the ticket who invalidity McCain's status as "war hero" because he was captured by enemy combatants, Donald Trump, receives remarkably greater support from Republicans in Arizona. 65 percent of Arizona Republicans told PPP that they were "comfortable with Trump as their nominee." And despite the significant #NeverTrump faction remaining amongst Arizona Republicans (22 percent), Arizona's senior Republican senator doesn't even garner a boost for enduring Trump's wrath.

For his part, McCain released a series of campaign attack ads in recent days that really stress his understanding of just dire a situation he finds himself in 2016. From TPM:

Sen. John McCain's (R-AZ) re-election campaign on Monday mocked his primary opponent for entertaining constituents' chemtrail conspiracy theories. But it turns out McCain last year forwarded to the Environmental Protection Agency a letter from a constituent concerned about chemtrails, and asked the EPA to respond.

In the April 2015 cover letter, McCain notified the EPA that a constituent had "encountered a problem."

"Because the situation is under your jurisdiction, I am respectfully referring this matter to you for consideration," the letter reads.

Here's McCain's original ad:

The McCain campaign has put $120,000 behind another ad targeting his likely Democratic opponent, should he manage to make it out of the primary, and released on Monday:

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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Arizona Donald Trump Election 2016 Elections 2016 John Mccain Poll Ppp Poll Video