February 18th, 2010
04:15 PM ET
10 years ago

Hayworth, away from the cameras, takes on McCain at CPAC

Former Arizona Rep. Hayworth is challenging Sen. John McCain from the right.

Former Arizona Rep. Hayworth is challenging Sen. John McCain from the right.

Washington (CNN) - Unlike fellow Republican Senate hopeful Marco Rubio, former Rep. J.D. Hayworth did not get top billing at the Conservative Political Action Conference. Far from it.

But Hayworth, who is mounting a GOP primary challenge to Sen. John McCain in Arizona, did appear down the hall from the main ballroom on a small panel discussion about free speech - and spent his allotted five minutes thrashing his opponent.

"You wonder why John McCain is facing this challenge?," Hayworth told the small audience of conservative activists in the room. "It's because after 28 years in Washington, he may claim conservatism, but sadly those underpinnings have deserted him."

Given the title of the panel - "They Want Us To Shut Up: Saving Freedom and the First Amendment" - Hayworth drilled down on McCain's long crusade to reform campaign finance laws, a fight many conservatives believe is an assault on free speech.

But Hayworth said McCain has undergone a "campaign year conversion to conservatism," because he remained relatively silent after the Supreme Court overturned decades of campaign finance regulations earlier this year.

Hayworth then likened McCain to the left-leaning media watchdog Media Matters and liberal billionaire George Soros before taking his seat on the panel dais.

Arizona Republican Party Chairman Randy Pullen was present in the room for Hayworth's remarks.

Pullen, who is officially neutral in his role as chairman, called the primary "a real competitive race." He said Hayworth "has a lot of support," but added he "has a lot of ground to make up" against McCain, who has been campaigning for re-election since he fell short in the 2008 presidential race.

"But J.D. is a hard campaigner, so I expect this to be a very, very tough campaign," Pullen said.

Filed under: 2010 • Arizona • J.D. Hayworth • John McCain
soundoff (29 Responses)
  1. Bill from GA

    Maybe Dick Cheney will give a demo on water-boarding. Liz would be a good assistant( victim).

    February 18, 2010 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  2. m smith

    Hey maybe you should get togeather with Joe the plummer. I hear he is out bashing you guys too. What a bunch of looney tunes you all are. Anyone for flying lessons?

    February 18, 2010 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  3. marc in california

    I still can't believe the Democrats are not running anybody there. This seems like a golden opportunity in what maybe a disapointing yearfor them.

    February 18, 2010 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  4. shooter

    More power to you! By all means get McCain out of US Senate. This old crook is old, corrupted, cheater, liar and is a straight theft express.

    February 18, 2010 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
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