According to Politico, John McCain might be facing a serious challenge in his 2010 primary now that Chris Simcox, founder of the Minutemen Civil Defense Corps, has thrown his hat into the ring. Via Ben Smith:

"John McCain has failed miserably in his duty to secure this nation's borders and protect the people of Arizona from the escalating violence and lawlessness," Simcox said. "He has fought real efforts over the years at every turn, opting to hold our nation's border security hostage to his amnesty schemes. Coupled with his votes for reckless bailout spending and big government solutions to our nation's problems, John McCain is out of touch with everyday Arizonans. Enough is enough."

The right-wing purist gimmick seems to me pretty unlikely to work--a recent study by pro-reform advocates America's Voice found that in 22 races where supporters of comprehensive reform were challenged by candidates running with hard-line immigration stances, all but two favoring reform won their election. The Republican primary is an entirely different game, of course, but Simcox shtick seems trickier to pull off against someone with McCain's star power.

You have to wonder, though, how it'll shape the upcoming immigration reform debate. Last week, reacting to the labor accord on immigration reform, McCain told The Hill, "The current plan being developed by the administration and organized labor calls for immigration reform that does not adequately address either securing the border or a legal temporary worker program and is a plan I cannot support," which is strange, because the administration has put very few details of their plan forward yet, and would almost certainly want to develop a proposal that would win his support. Either he knows something we don't, or local politics is forcing him to take a tougher posture. That makes sense for him politically but could seriously threaten the debate going forward, which would be a shame, particularly now that his partner in 2007, Ted Kennedy, has stepped down from his chairmanship of the Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees, and Border Security. Last year, the Minutemen movement appeared to be in its death throes, as TNR's Zvika Krieger reported. But now there's a chance that, via McCain's primary, they might once again get to influence the debate.

Marin Cogan