McCain wins Arizona state primary

US Senator defeats radio personality to become party candidate.

McCain 311 (photo credit: AP Photo/Matt York)
McCain 311
(photo credit: AP Photo/Matt York)
WASHINGTON — Voters weighed the merits of establishment candidates against outsiders, as US Senator John McCain, the 2008 Republican  presidential nominee who took a hard turn to the right in a bid for a fifth Senate term, handily defeated a conservative talk radio personality.
The Arizona election was one of five state primaries Tuesday in which voters chose party candidates for November balloting nationwide that could end Democrats' majority hold on the House of Representatives and, perhaps, the Senate.
McCain moves ahead of Obama in poll readers favor McCain over Obama
The 73-year-old McCain will begin a final 10-week push and will be the heavy favorite. Former Tucson councilman Rodney Glassman won the Democratic nomination but he faces an uphill fight in heavily conservative Arizona.
The primary season has tested the strength of insurgent campaigns. With Americans in a sour mood over the down economy and unemployment at nearly 10 percent, outsiders — especially those aligned with or belonging to the amorphous, hard right tea party movement — already have swept away some incumbents.
McCain, however, went into the vote with a healthy lead in the polls over tea-party-backed former Rep. J.D. Hayworth.
The challenge from party's right wing prompted McCain, who has a long history of bucking the conservative establishment, to toss aside his self-described "maverick" label. He adopted a hard-line stand on immigration just a few years after working with Democrats on a path to citizenship for those in the country illegally. "Complete the danged fence," he says in a campaign ad, three years after dismissing the effectiveness of building a fence on the US-Mexico border.
McCain's 2008 running mate, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, was trying to help a tea party-backed candidate in her home state.
Joe Miller's upstart Republican primary bid against Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who hoped voters would reward political experience, looked like a long shot. But Murkowski was in a surprisingly close race with about a third of the vote counted.
Palin has become a de facto leader of the ultraconservative tea party movement in its bid to unseat incumbents. However, she endorsed McCain, who elevated her to the national stage by making her his surprise vice presidential pick two years ago.
In previous primaries this year, voters have shown both a readiness to fire veteran lawmakers and a willingness to keep them.
The tea party has had mixed success. It won big in Nevada, Kentucky, Colorado and Utah Republican Senate contests but lost just about everywhere else.