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The Political Calculus in Picking McCain's Successor

Columnist: Gov. Ducey will look for a reliable GOP vote, making Cindy McCain unlikely
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 27, 2018 1:18 PM CDT
In this 2017 photo, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., speaks to reporters following the weekly Republican policy luncheon on Capitol Hill.   (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
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(Newser) – One suggestion in circulation after John McCain's death is that Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey will appoint McCain's widow, Cindy, to his seat. Don't bet on it, writes Perry Bacon Jr. at FiveThirtyEight. More than anything, Ducey will want to pick someone who can be counted on as a reliable Republican vote in the Senate, and Cindy McCain is too much of a wild card on that front. Bacon doesn't predict specific names, but he thinks Ducey will settle on a "caretaker"—someone who isn't interested in serving in the seat long-term. That way, Ducey doesn't jeopardize his own political prospects by alienating either the establishment branch of his state's GOP or its more right-wing branch (think Joe Arpaio) with the appointment.

In terms of pure politics, the vacancy is good news for the GOP and for President Trump because McCain's replacement will restore the party's 51-49 advantage (McCain has been absent a while) and presumably give the party a more reliable vote on party issues. In fact, it's quite possible that the GOP will have 52 seats in the Senate after the midterms, and three iffy votes (McCain, along with the retiring Jeff Flake and Bob Corker) will have been replaced by three more solid ones. That would give swing-vote GOP senators such as Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski much less clout in influencing party policy, notes Bacon. The smart money, then, is on a "fairly conservative pick." (This person will serve until the next election in November 2020, then run in a special election if he wishes to finish McCain's term through 2022.) Click for the full column. (Read more John McCain stories.)

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