Chuck Todd and Mark Murray report:
Here’s the exclusive from NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell: “John McCain is ready for a new fight. ‘I have decided to run for re-election,’ the Arizona senator told NBC News in an exclusive interview revealing his plans to pursue a sixth term on Capitol Hill. ‘I’m ready. I am more than ready. In some ways, I am eager.’ McCain is currently 78 years old but will be 80 by Election Day in 2016. He defended his vitality, saying that he is ‘just getting started’ when it comes to his Senate career. Our take: This re-election fight won’t be easy for McCain, because the most challenging re-election races that senators run are either their first re-election contest or their fourth/fifth. McCain officially announces his re-election bid in Phoenix at 1:30 pm ET.
Nearly 30 years in the upper chamber and Sen. McCain is “just getting started”? Good grief. In what sane universe could that possibly be true? The man, after all, is 78 years old. Meanwhile, his electoral prospects are anything but rosy. His own state party has censored him for “voting for legislation best associated with liberal Democrats,” and he has long been a persona non grata among conservatives. Indeed, he once referred to two darlings of the conservative right as “wacko birds” – an attack for which he later apologized – and also has the unique distinction of being ranked the least popular U.S. Senator last year.
All that being said, Sen. McCain strikes me as a politician who relishes a fight and, as he told NBC, is “eager” to show he’s still got it. He won’t go quietly or humbly into retirement. Also, on the plus side, he has decades of experience, both on and off the national stage, and presumably has a campaign apparatus second to none. Thus, if Republicans seriously want to unseat him, a task they have failed at time and time again, they will need to field a strong, conservative candidate that can’t be dismissed as either “fringe” or "unqualified." There are, it seems, a few good candidates rumored to be contemplating a challenge, and hopefully we’ll know more about them in the coming weeks.
For now, however, “McRino” – as the base lovingly refers to him – will make his bid official in just a few hours. Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised.