But even though Hayworth benefited from Tea Party energy and the political heat and light around the immigration issue in Arizona, McCain pulled substantially ahead in the polls after spending nearly $25 million, to Hayworth’s $2.6 million as of August 4.
McCain successfully shifted the focus to his opponent: Hayworth’s past campaigns seemed to suggest he hadn’t always been such an anti-government conservative as he portrayed himself in 2010.
“He made this race about J.D. Hayworth, which was smart,” said one prominent Republican insider. “If some of the other establishment candidates earlier in the year had been able to do that, they may have been able to survive.”
In Florida, meanwhile, Democratic Congressman Kendrick Meek is pulling away in the polls from gadfly billionaire real estate developer Jeffrey Greene, despite Greene’s spending as much as $23 million of his own money in the campaign.
Meek was boosted by lurid tales of celebrity debauchery on Greene’s 145-foot yacht, the Summerwind and by photos that surfaced in July of troubled Hollywood actress Lindsay Lohan onboard.
That could clear a path for Meek to go on to a three-way battle for Florida’s open Senate seat, where he would face Republican conservative darling Marco Rubio and incumbent Gov. Charlie Crist, who left the Republican party earlier this year and is running as an independent.
A veteran Washington player told CNBC Monday that a Meek victory may, in the end, be the last thing that Washington Democrats would like to see in the race.