McCain’s allies knew what was coming if McCain opted to seek reelection. He’d faced a primary from J. D. Hayworth in 2010, and in January of 2014, the Arizona Republican party formally censured McCain him for his “disastrous and harmful” record. “We didn’t need to poll to know that 25–30 percent of GOP primary voters in Arizona were going to vote for anybody but John McCain — that’s been always the case,” says Christian Ferry, a former McCain staffer. So in February of 2014, Ferry and another former McCain aide, Jon Seaton, launched Arizona Grassroots Action to start building up grassroots support for McCain and help elect precinct committee members to the state party who would be more favorable to the senior senator. “The lack of a robust grassroots organization is something [potential challengers] look at and say, that might present an opportunity,” explains Ferry. He and Seaton set out to erase that vulnerability.

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