Washington (CNSNews.com) – Former Congressman J.D. Hayworth faulted Sen. John McCain, whom he is challenging in the Arizona Republican Senate primary, for voting for the biggest earmark of all time in the 2008 bank bailout.
Hayworth, who served in the House of Representatives for six terms, announced on Monday that he would challenge the 2008 GOP presidential nominee for his Senate seat in the August primary.
“He (McCain) voted for the bailout, and speaking of earmarks, not only $700 billion for the banks, but $150 billion in earmarks,” Hayworth told CNSNews.com on Friday at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington, D.C. “John may claim he opposes earmarks, but when the biggest earmarks bill in history came down, he called it an obscenity and he voted for it anyway.”
“What does that prove?” said Hayworth. “It proves, with all due respect, John McCain is not in a position to lecture anyone on fiscal restraint.”
Most of the opposition to the bank bailout – the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) enacted in October 2008 under then-President George W. Bush -- came from Republicans in Congress. But the administration lobbied hard and eventually got the support of congressional leaders to pass the measure.
McCain has caused angst among conservatives for his positions on such issues as campaign finance reform, immigration and global warming. He has also touted his conservatism largely based on his opposition to pork barrel spending.
“Arizonans will decide this race, but it has national implications,” Hayworth said. “I’ve got to tell you, it’s just so gratifying to see the amount of the support here. People are coming up. It’s reflected in what we are seeing in donations. Mary, my wife, is back home, she went to the post office box the last two days -- bushels.”
He declined to say how much he has raised for the campaign.
“Wait until we report it,” he said. “I think it’s going to be a very healthy number. Never give your opponent a complete definition of the battlefield. Let’s just wait, and when we have to have this done, we’ll report it. It’s very healthy.”
In a Jan. 25 statement, McCain, who did not speak at CPAC, called out Hayworth on his votes for earmarks.
“J.D. Hayworth cast countless votes for earmarks and pork barrel projects that helped balloon our government deficit by billions of dollars,” McCain said. “His election would be a substantial setback for the true conservative principles that you and I stand for.”
“Unfortunately, J.D. Hayworth has a record of talking like a conservative, but voting like a liberal on fiscal issues,” McCain continued in the statement. “As a Member of Congress, he voted for millions of dollars in earmarks at your expense including sprucing up blueberry farms in Maine and researching French fruit flies."
Hayworth said he feels emboldened by McCain’s attacks.
“This just demonstrates why John has been there too long,” Hayworth told CNSNews.com. “He’s a good man getting bad advice. His campaign can be described by one word: Panic. He’s overreacting, making charges he knows are malicious and false.”
“When it comes to fiscal spending, did you know, I have a better lifetime rating with Citizens Against Government Waste than does John McCain?” Hayworth said.
That is only true, however, in a very narrow sense, said Tom Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste, a fiscal watchdog group.
“It’s one point -- Congressman Hayworth had a lifetime rating of 89, Sen. McCain had a rating of 88,” Schatz told CNSNews.com. “Also, Sen. McCain was in the Senate for 24 years. That’s a long time to have a consistent high. So it’s difficult to say Congressman Hayworth is equal or better.”
McCain has the seventh highest lifetime rating in the Senate and Hayworth ranks at number 17 under the CAGW ratings, Schatz said.
A Rasmussen Reports poll last month found McCain holds a 53 percent to 31 percent lead over Hayworth.
Another negative for Hayworth is that Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) -- whose endorsement of conservative insurgent Marco Rubio in Florida made him competitive in his primary Senate bid with Republican Gov. Charlie Crist -- declined to endorse anyone in the Arizona race.
Meanwhile, McCain’s running mate in 2008, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, has stumped for McCain in Arizona, and newly elected Massachusetts GOP Sen. Scott Brown, also a superstar in the conservative movement, will be going to Arizona to campaign for McCain.