By Alex Altman
September 2, 2016

After fending off a primary challenge this week, Sen. John McCain opened his general-election campaign with a frank suggestion: Hillary Clinton, and not Donald Trump, is likely to become the next President.

“If Hillary Clinton is elected president, Arizona will need a Senator who will act as a check, not a rubber stamp for the White House,” the Republican, who is bidding for his sixth term, says in a campaign video released Wednesday.

The video doesn’t mention Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump by name. But it makes an appeal to the many voters who are “dissatisfied with your choices for President,” casting McCain—and a Republican Senate majority—as a critical counterweight to Clinton’s policies.

McCain has had a tricky relationship with Trump, who infamously declared that McCain was “not a war hero.” The Arizona Senator spent some five-and-a-half years in a North Vietnamese prison cell after his Navy plane was shot down in 1967. “He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured,” Trump said in July 2015.

Despite the tension between the two men, McCain endorsed Trump for President in May. McCain continued to support the controversial nominee throughout his own difficult primary, wary of alienating Trump voters. He’s not the first prominent Republican member of Congress to imply that Clinton will emerge victorious in November. In early August, House Speaker Paul Ryan dropped a similar hint.

“If we fail to protect our majority in Congress, we could be handing President Hillary Clinton a blank check,” Ryan said in a fundraising message.

Write to Alex Altman at alex_altman@timemagazine.com.

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