Delegates booed, hissed and turned their backs on Senator John McCain during his appearance at the annual Statutory Meeting of the State Committee of the Arizona Republican Party on Saturday at Grace Community Church in Tempe. A small mostly silver-haired faction sat dutifully after Rev. C. T. Wright introduced the senior senator.
McCain was censured in 2014, but this year, GOP leadership effectively quashed any dissent prior to the event. To ensure a warm reception, witness say that a group of about 80 members of the Vietnamese community came out to lend their support for the Viet Nam War POW. Graham, a McCain loyalist, has spent the last year courting the community.
Popular conservative radio show host, James T. Harris described the scene as it unfolded in the balcony seating above the delegates on the floor. At the instructions of a man, who appeared to be a Party operative, the group pulled out homemade signs and Vietnamese flags. Harris and another witness reported that the Party operative issued instructions to the group, who responded on cue. Harris said, “John McCain stacked the deck. It was highly orchestrated and very disturbing.” A State committeeperson, who asked that their name not be used described it as “creepy,” and “choreographed.”
McCain used the same tactic effectively at his townhalls during his push for the U.S. to attack Syrian in 2013.
Saturday’s staging was not as successful according to the conservative blog, Seeingredaz: “Judging by the boos, backs turned to the speaker, and people leaving the auditorium during his address, McCain’s choreographed purge of conservatives from the party ranks wasn’t as successful as he had envisioned.”
McCain’s hand-picked successor, Congressman Matt Salmon offered an unusually conservative speech to the handful of delegates who remained in the hall. Many believe that despite the fact that McCain is claiming interest in another run in 2016, he is simply staging a Salmon run.
The reaction to McCain and Salmon was decidedly generational. However, the reaction to newly elected Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas was positive across the board, and she earned a standing ovation from the momentarily enthusiastic crowd.
McCain tweeted after his speech, “Very happy with #Arizona Republican Party leadership slate elected at today’s state #GOP meeting @AZGOP,” after the meeting. He also tweeted a picture of he and his wife Cindy posing with the Vietnamese group outside the church.
McCain has fractured the Party, and under Graham voter registration declined by 32,830 registered Republicans. He is the only AZGOP Chairman in 10 years to lower Republican registration. Blunders such as spending over $100,000 for “voter registration” of people not eligible to vote in 2014 have created internal conflicts, and the Party has lost over 1,000 Precinct Committeemen.