"John McCain has fallen down on the job. He's gotten weak. He's gotten old," Kelli Ward said
McCain is the eighth-oldest senator currently serving
Sen. John McCain’s primary opponent is standing by her criticism one day after she declared that the soon-to-be 80-year-old Arizona Republican is too old to be re-elected.
“John McCain has stayed in Washington, D.C. for way too long – almost four decades,” she told CNN’s Brooke Baldwin Friday, saying that McCain and his own family members had reservations about his age. “The Arizona voters will decide if they want an 80-year-old senator or not.”
McCain is the eighth-oldest senator currently serving. The oldest is California Democrat Dianne Feinstein, 83, who has two more years left on her term.
The Arizona GOP primary election is set for Tuesday and McCain is the favorite to win yet again.
A CNN/ORC poll of Arizona released Wednesday showed McCain leading Ward 55% to 29% among likely Republican primary voters. The poll also found McCain ahead of his likely general election opponent, Ann Kirkpatrick, by 52% to 39% among registered voters.
Ward dismissed that survey to Baldwin as a “bogus poll.”
On Thursday, Ward told MSNBC’s Chuck Todd: “John McCain has fallen down on the job. He’s gotten weak. He’s gotten old,” Kelli Ward told MSNBC’s Chuck Todd.
In a nod to the senator’s upcoming birthday on Monday, she added, “I want to give him the best birthday present ever: the gift of retirement.”
Todd asked the former state senator to clarify her comments, specifically if she believed McCain was too old for the Senate.
“I’m a physician. I see the physiological changes that happen in normal patients again and again and again over the last 20, 25 years, so I do know what happens to the body and the mind at the end of life,” Ward said.
Weighing her medical experience, Todd followed up again: “You feel comfortable diagnosing him on air like this?”
She did not back down: “Diagnosing him as an 80-year-old man, yes, I do.”
McCain’s campaign fought back fiercely against Ward’s criticism.
“At the end of campaigns, desperate candidates too often embarrassing themselves by launching dishonorable, personal attacks,” McCain spokeswoman Lorna Romero said Friday. “It’s unfortunate that Kelli Ward has chosen to end her campaign with desperate fictions.”
On Thursday, Romero swiped: “The ‘chemtrails’ must be getting to Kelli Ward.” She was referring to Ward having once held a town hall event to hear from her constituents about “chemtrails,” a popular but unsubstantiated conspiracy theory that moisture trails left behind by planes are actually chemicals deposited for unknown purposes.
The McCain campaign has seized on this meeting and attempted to tie Ward to fringe figures like conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.
Ward told Todd she would “probably” support McCain if she failed to upend the race.
When McCain ran for president in 2008, his age was often contrasted with then-Sen. Barack Obama’s relative youth. His presidential campaign released several years’ worth of medical records and allowed reporters access to medical documents and had a teleconference with his physician.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified the California senator who is retiring. Barbara Boxer is not seeking re-election this fall.
CNN’s Theodore Schleifer contributed to this report.