Former 2008 presidential nominee and long-time Republican Senator John McCain (AZ), who is running for a sixth term, officially has a challenger. Democratic Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ-1) has declared her intention to challenge Senator McCain in 2016. Through a video she recorded making it official, she touted her experience on the House Veterans Affair Committee and her record on job creation in Arizona. Democrats think this gives them a top recruit in the race and a potential pick-up opportunity. Arizona is a reliably Republican state, but immigration-related demographic changes have been slowly making it more hospitable to Democrats with four out of nine House seats held by the Democratic Party. Kirkpatrick has shown she can win in a tough state as she currently represents a GOP-leaning district and won re-election last fall against the odds where many thought she would be swept by the Republican wave. It's also possible Democratic Representative Kyrsten Sinema (AZ-9) could jump into the primary race with Kirkpatrick if her House seat is re-districted. The status of Sinema’s district is pending a Supreme Court ruling, which would give the Party two top recruits but a possible bloody primary.
Despite McCain's strong fundraising and campaigning he may have a couple conservative challengers to fend off too. Individuals running to the right of McCain could include Representative Matt Salmon (AZ-5) and State Senator Kelli Ward. Neither has declared their intention to run yet but both have buzz and it could make for a better pick up opportunity for Democrats if one of them manages to topple McCain. This is one race we'll be watching closely. The Rothenberg/Gonzales Report changed the race rating from Favor Republican to Lean Republican after Kirkpatrick's announcement.
Meanwhile, the Republican field for president keeps growing from six official candidates to eight this week. The first candidate to announce was 2012 Republican primary second place finisher and former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum. A long shot in 2012, his odds don't look any better this time around where according to polls he may not even make the cut for the first debates this year. Santorum is hoping those who voted for him last time around are still fans and will continue to support him. His camp also believes he occupies a unique space in the field where he appeals to blue collar workers and social conservatives.
The second candidate to announce has flirted to run for president for the last two cycles but doesn't seem to fit the modern day Republican Party is former New York Governor George Pataki. The three-term governor who led the state during the 9/11 attacks has been away from the limelight as his Party has grown more conservative. Pataki supports abortion rights and has an easy public demeanor that doesn't match the current appetite for firebrands in the party. With that said, he will be a huge underdog and have a lot of trouble raising money. For now Pataki's success depends largely on the first-in-the-nation primary state of New Hampshire, where he might find a natural base for his liberal stances on social issues and use a win there to propel his candidacy throughout the primary season.
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