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J.D. Hayworth disavows ALIPAC -- sort of

Like Politico's Ben Smith, I've decided not to indulge the immigration restrictionist group ALIPAC's smear campaign against Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) -- apart from calling it out as a smear campaign. And like Smith, I'm watching how the campaign of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) -- probably Graham's best friend in the Senate -- is turning the campaign against McCain's primary challenger, former congressman J.D. Hayworth. Hayworth denounced the smear 24 hours ago, with spokesman Mark Sanders telling local reporters:

The campaign strongly repudiates these comments. We are happy to have the support of all voters in Arizona who understand the need to end this crisis of illegal immigration.

The McCain campaign, however, has dug in, demanding that Hayworth do more and decline ALIPAC's endorsement. I spoke to Sanders about this, and he declined to take that step.

"What we've said is all that we're saying," said Sanders. "We strongly denounce these comments and disavow the support of each and every Arizona supporter."

That allows the McCain campaign to accuse Hayworth of continuing to "embrace" ALIPAC. And it's really not clear to me what the political effect of this will be. I have yet to see evidence that McCain's effort to paint Hayworth as a member of the "fringe" for indulging some conspiracy theories about Barack Obama has worked. And Graham is probably the GOP politician most despised by the conservative base, over his stances on immigration and cap-and-trade. Is the Hayworth campaign erring by refusing to fully back down? It might not be.

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By David Weigel  |  April 21, 2010; 6:11 PM ET
Categories:  2010 Election , Fringe  
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