National Journal announced
on Thursday that Senator John McCain--the Arizona Republican and 2008
presidential nominee--had emerged from the publication's analysis of
2010 Senate votes as the chamber's most conservative member, sharing
the title with seven colleagues.
McCain had hovered around
the Senate's ideological center in National Journal's rankings
earlier in the decade, when he earned a reputation as an
independent-minded "maverick" by partnering
with Democrats on contentious issues such as campaign finance reform
and comprehensive immigration reform--a mystique that followed him
through the 2008 presidential campaign. Fast-forward to 2010. How did
McCain come to earn his most conservative score since entering the
Senate? Here are the explanations on offer:
- 2008 Election Michael D. Shear at The New York Times explains
that the presidential campaign forced McCain to become "the
standard-bearer of the Republican party" and he seemed to relish the new role, ratcheting up the "anti-Democratic rhetoric" as the campaign wore on. Shear adds that this spirit
of opposition persisted after Barack Obama become president and manifested
itself, for example, in McCain's criticism of health care reform.
Party Dynamics and Arizona Primary National Journal's Reid Wilson notes
that McCain's shift "is emblematic of the Republican Party's shift
rightward" and also a product of his strong primary challenge in 2010
from J.D. Hayworth, who criticized McCain for not being sufficiently
conservative. And indeed, the man who subtitled his 2003 memoir
"The Education of an American Maverick" told Newsweek during the primary that "I never considered myself a
maverick. I consider myself a person who serves the people of Arizona
to the best of his abilities."
- Legislative Agenda A
McCain spokeswoman tells National Journal that it's the legislative
agenda in the Senate that's changed, not McCain's ideology.
- Maybe He Didn't Move That Far Right Hot Air's Ed Morrissey cites another study
that analyzed all Senate votes (National Journal chose 96) and
concluded that in the recently concluded 111th Congress, McCain was the
26th most conservative Senator.