The revenge of John McCain? Trump trails in Arizona after aides warned him to stop attacking state's late senator and favorite son

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Louise Boyle
·3 min read
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Joe Biden and John McCain, pictured in the new campaign ad (Joe Biden campaign)
Joe Biden and John McCain, pictured in the new campaign ad (Joe Biden campaign)

The Trump campaign had the wind knocked from its sails on Election Night as Joe Biden pulled ahead in Arizona, with Fox News making an early call of the state in favor of the Democratic challenger.

But some in the Trump team had long warned that the president was on thin ice there after his repeated, vicious attacks on John McCain, the late senator and Vietnam war veteran, one of Arizona's most revered sons.

For years, Mr Trump has attacked Senator McCain, continuing to throw insults even after his death in 2018.

Mr Trump, who avoided the military draft five times, caused outrage after disparaging the senator’s military record. 

“He’s not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured,” the president said.

A Navy pilot, Sen. McCain was shot down over North Vietnam in 1967. He was captured, beaten and held prisoner for more than five years, refusing to be released ahead of other US service members.

In September, the senator’s widow, Cindy McCain, endorsed Mr Biden, citing the decades of friendship between her family and Biden’s and their bond as the parents of children serving in the military.

Her backing was seen as a major boost for Mr Biden among Republicans disaffected with Mr Trump in Arizona, a crucial swing state that Sen McCain represented for four decades. 

Soon after the endorsement, the president tweeted: “I hardly know Cindy McCain other than having put her on a Committee at her husband’s request. Joe Biden was John McCain’s lapdog. So many BAD decisions on Endless Wars & the V.A., which I brought from a horror show to HIGH APPROVAL. Never a fan of John. Cindy can have Sleepy Joe!”

These repeated attacks appeared to be coming back to bite him, the New York Times reported on Wednesday.

Advisors, including Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel and former campaign manager, Brad Parscale, had previously urged the president to stop attacking Sen McCain.

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Fox News and Associated Press have declared Mr Biden the winner in Arizona, a serious upset for Mr Trump in what had one been a reliably red state. Other major news outlets have yet to call Arizona.

Arizona state officials said on Thursday that about 450,000 ballots are still to be counted.

AP executive editor Sally Buzbee says: “The Associated Press continues to watch and analyze vote count results from Arizona. We will follow the facts in all cases.”

Mr Biden holds a 2.35 percentage point lead in the state, an advantage of about 68,000 votes.

The vast majority of the ballots yet to be counted are from Maricopa County, home of the city of Phoenix, the most populous area of the state.

Armed crowds had surrounded a center in Phoenix where votes were being counted, shouting “let us in” on Wednesday night, forcing the sheriff’s department to respond.

Mr Biden has 253 electoral college votes, Mr Trump has 214. Whoever reaches 270 votes will be the next occupant of the White House.

AP contributed to this report

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