Early Friday morning, while the hallways at CPAC were still largely empty, J.D. Hayworth was ready to go in a full suit and tie, entering his second day at the nation's annual meeting of conservatives and Day 5 of his official bid to bump John McCain out of his Senate seat.
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
"I think we all respect John McCain, his service to our country," the former congressman and right-wing talk show host told CBS News. "No one doubts his sense of duty and sacrifice, but after 28 years in Washington, many Arizonans said they wanted to see a consistent conservative in the U.S. Senate and so that's the reason I'm running."
Portraying the 73-year-old McCain as a flip flopper, Hayworth said, "One of the reasons why Arizonans will welcome him back home, is because rather than calling his bus the straight talk express – given the gulf between his current campaign rhetoric and his record of performance – he might want to name that the double talk express."
Hayworth called himself "a consistent Conservative cutting taxes, protecting the border...constantly working to help our troops win this war on Islamofascism."
McCain, he said, "has had some good ideas, but lately in Washington, legislates like a liberal – whether voting against the tax cuts …[or] introducing cap and trade legislation which would've been another huge tax increase on the American people."
In 2004, Sen. McCain was re-elected with nearly 77% of the vote, but with an anti-incumbent mood sweeping the country, the race is being billed by onlookers as McCain's toughest re-election battle yet.
McCain's strategists perceive the 51-year-old radio host to be enough of a threat that they began airing a radio ad attacking Hayworth last month. In February, when Hayworth finally announced his decision to run, McCain's communications director Brian Rogers revived a controversy that some political analysts say cost Hayworth's re-election to the House of Representatives in 2006.
"Mr. Hayworth was the largest recipient of campaign contributions tied to the corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff," the press release said. "Senator McCain led the investigation that exposed Abramoff's corruption."
On his ties to Abramoff, Hayworth told CBS News, "My record is clear. No investigation was even launched of me. Now I did have to take 12 years of documents and put them in the hands of a Washington DC law firm for examination by the Justice Department. And after that thorough examination, the Justice Department said, essentially, there's no there there."
"If you think that I could run for the U.S. Senate with that type of ethical cloud surrounding me, I wouldn't be here, but there's no ethical cloud because I did nothing wrong. My name has been completely cleared," he said.
Hayworth argued the negative ads has created a "backlash" among Arizonans, especially since McCain "did nothing like this against Barack Obama in the Presidential race."
"It's just another situation where John seems to be out of touch, and he certainly has a right to run the ads," said Hayworth. "I'm certainly not going to try to restrict his freedom of speech, as unfortunately, he tried to do with mine both with campaign finance reform and sending his lawyers to pressure my employer to try and take me off the air, but it just doesn't help anybody.
Prior to the official launch of Hayworth's Senate bid, McCain's campaign filed a complaint with the FCC alleging Hayworth was abusing his job as a 4-7pm radio talk show on Clear Channel's KFYI-AM, getting hours of air time to criticize the Arizona senator for what they considered a de-facto campaign.
At CPAC, Hayworth sat on a panel called "They Want Us To Shut Up: Saving Freedom and the First Amendment," during which he told the audience Sen. McCain "used his position to intimidate a broadcasting corporation into silencing the voice of an employee legally contracted to do a job."
While McCain's campaign has approximately $5 million cash on hand, Hayworth has been capitalizing on media appearances to increase the visibility of his edgy, outspoken persona.
(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
In an interview on CNN, Hayworth explained his call for President Obama to release his birth certificate by saying, "For every race across the country, especially with identity theft in the news, it would be great that people can confirm who they say they are."
Sen. McCain has almost 28 years in Congress under his belt -- 24 years in the Senate and four in the House – which Hayworth said has been too long.
"I pledge to serve just two six years terms, two consecutive terms in the United States Senate for a total of twelve years," Hayworth told CBS News. "Then it will be time for me to come home, and for Arizonans to select another citizen to serve the United States Senate." "
If Hayworth wins two terms as a Senator, he would log 24 years in Congress. Hayworth served in the House of Representatives for six terms, from 1995 to 2007. He lost his seat to Rep. Harry Mitchell (D-Ariz.) in 2006, a year when Democrats won a narrow majority of the House after 12 years of Republican rule.
Hayworth told CBS disagrees with the idea that the tax cuts he supported in 2001 and 2003 contributed to the national debt, arguing that the cuts kept "money in the pockets of Americans to save, send, and invest to fuel the fires of economic freedom" and "actually brought more revenues to the government."
"Tax cuts actually in the long term add revenues to the government because you actually build the economy – quite the opposite situation being offered by Mr. Obama and the Democrats right now, to tax and tax and tax and tax. And in so doing they will continue to hurt our economy. The way you get the budget back into balance is two things: cutting taxes and also reducing massive duplication of government programs. You have to cut taxes and cut the true cost of government, which is all the expenditures for all the programs that have grown too big and too inefficient."
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