PHOENIX — KTAR political expert Mike O’Neil said primary wins for Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Republican Sen. John McCain came as no surprise.
In the case of the multiple-term U.S. senator, O’Neil believed McCain would have beaten challenger Kelli Ward even without her inflammatory comments just days ago about McCain’s age. He turned 80 on Monday.
Last week on a nationally televised appearance, Ward implied the senator may not live to finish out his six-year term.
“I’m a physician,” Ward said. “I see the physiological changes that happen in normal aging, in patients again and again and again over the last 20, 25 years. So I do know what happens to the body and the mind at the end of life.”
That attack drew attention and criticism.
“That was way, way over the line. It backfired on Ward,” O’Neil said.
“When you go after somebody for age you never say so directly. You use terms like ‘he’s tired’ or ‘he’s been in office forever.’ You dance around it and never say it directly because it offends people.”
O’Neil said McCain faced a tough challenge in November from Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick. A recent CNN/ORC poll had McCain up by double digits over Kirkpatrick.
O’Neil said Arpaio’s time in office could end after 24 years in November when he squares off against Democrat Paul Penzone, who came close to defeating Arpaio in 2012.
“Arpaio’s base drove him to a primary win but he faces a totally different electorate in November. He won by 5 percent last time.
“Since then there’s been a criminal referral against the sheriff. Four years ago Arpaio was able to split the vote because of a bogus third candidate in the race.
“That doesn’t happen this time and Arpaio goes head to head with Paul Penzone.”
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