Republican primary voters in Arizona are down on John McCain, with a majority of them thinking he's too lenient on immigration and a plurality feeling that he's too liberal in general. But his saving grace may be that the candidate trying to exploit those weaknesses is J.D. Hayworth, who begins the race with high negatives. As a result McCain leads with 46% to 35% for Hayworth and 7% for Jim Deakin.
Hayworth actually leads McCain 46-38 with conservative voters. But McCain's 60-15 advantage with moderates is so overwhelming that it allows him the double digit lead.
McCain's overall numbers with primary voters are nothing to write home about. 45% disapprove of his job performance to 44% who approve. 43% think he's too liberal to 38% who think he's about right. 53% think he's too lenient on immigration to 32% who think he's about right.
But conservative voters in particular are down on him on all of those fronts right now. 46% of them disapprove of him with only 41% approving. 59% of them think he's too liberal to 30% who think he's about right. And 67% of them think his views on immigration are too lenient to only 26% who think they're about right.
For all that McCain still has to be seen as the favorite in the race. 40% of GOP primary voters have an unfavorable opinion of Hayworth to 37% with a favorable one. With moderates in the party his favorability is a putrid 13/59 spread, which explains why he trailed Rodney Glassman in our general election polling yesterday. Voters beyond the far right just don't find him very palatable.
This is certainly a race to keep an eye on and McCain's situation strongly resembles where Charlie Crist was about 4-5 months ago before he completely collapsed in the Republican primary. The difference may be Marco Rubio vs. J.D. Hayworth though. Rubio started as a relative unknown to GOP voters in Florida and was able to build a positive image of himself to capitalize on the increasing discomfort with Crist. Hayworth starts out as well known but not well liked and voters who don't like him or McCain give the incumbent a 17 point advantage, seeing him as the lesser of two evils. Unless Hayworth can change voters' existing feelings about him McCain will probably survive.
Full results here