The McCain campaign is now so desperate they are making outrageous threats against JD Hayworth. McCain supporter and former AZ Attorney General Grant Woods: "Someone needs to drive a wooden stake through this guy's heart."
McCain is again trying to have it both ways, telling Newsweek in an interview that he doesn't consider himself a maverick. The best excerpts from the article, which included coverage of Palin's campaign appearances with him -
McCain hadn't gone with the flow enough, at least not enough to satisfy many Arizona Republicans. Why else would his rival, former congressman J.D. Hayworth, be billing himself as "the consistent conservative"? Many of the GOP's most faithful, the kind who vote in primaries despite 115-degree heat, tired long ago of McCain the Maverick, the man who had crossed the aisle to work with Democrats on issues like immigration reform, global warming, and restricting campaign contributions. "Maverick" is a mantle McCain no longer claims; in fact, he now denies he ever was one. "I never considered myself a maverick," he told me. "I consider myself a person who serves the people of Arizona to the best of his abilities." Yet here was Palin, urging her fans four times in 15 minutes to send McCain the Maverick back to Washington.
In contrast to Palin's chirpiness, McCain's subsequent remarks sounded ragged—he got the date of the fall election wrong, for starters—and belligerent, far less pleasing to the crowd, some of whom began drifting off. (Anyone watching via computer could see the size of the online audience dwindle the longer McCain spoke.)
With mainstream politicians paying an ever-greater price for their moderation—witness the Republican gubernatorial primary in Texas and upcoming senatorial primaries in Florida and Utah—mavericks like McCain are becoming an endangered species. That is, if McCain the Maverick is not already extinct.
It was McCain of all people who pledged that, after the president managed to get health care enacted, Obama would get no cooperation from the Republicans for the rest of the year. (He has since backed off that threat a bit, at least on matters of national security.)
If McCain's onetime mentor, Barry Goldwater, could write The Conscience of a Conservative, McCain could pen The Machinations of a Maverick. His dramatic shifts raise several questions: How much of his maverick persona over the years has been real and how much simply tactical? Is he in the midst of some struggle for his soul, or is this evolution simply the latest example...And if, as seems likely, John McCain goes on to serve another term, which John McCain will it be?
Taking absolutely no chances, McCain is tending aggressively to Arizona these days, reestablishing ties, holding town meetings, mending a few of the many, many fences he's knocked down in state Republican circles over the years. "The last time I had a conversation with John I had to hold the phone three feet from my head," says Randy Pullen, the Republican state chairman, whom McCain has repeatedly tried to replace.
Hayworth, who's worn only the uniform of the Eagle Scouts, still pays homage to McCain's military service at the start of every speech. He does not talk about throwing him out of office but of "welcoming him home." But otherwise the gloves are off. Every six years, he says, McCain pays attention to Arizona and pretends to be a conservative, only to revert to moderate form once he's reelected. ("The Johnny Mac Shuffle," he calls it.) "I'm glad all of us aren't like John McCain, but I'm glad a few of us are," says former Democrat senator Bob Kerrey of Nebraska.
Something about John McCain leaves people, on both left and right, feeling betrayed and disappointed. Even Joe the Plumber has grown disillusioned, concluding he's just another exploitative, elitist pol.
As for those pleas to bring back "the old John McCain," it's a familiar refrain to him, code for saying he's unprincipled.
Hayworth finds some solace in the fact that the people running McCain's campaign are the very same Beltway types behind his star-crossed presidential race. (Their alien origins were betrayed by early press releases spelling Arizona's second-largest city "T-U-S-C-O-N.")
Even for someone who routinely demonizes opponents, he is said to despise Hayworth..."The idea that a man like John McCain has to deal with a Bozo like J.?D. Hayworth is really offensive," says former state attorney general Grant Woods. "To have just a caricature of the opportunistic, bombastic politician throwing grenades at him at this stage of his career is really a sad commentary. Someone needs to drive a wooden stake through this guy's heart."
Republicans and Democrats alike acknowledge McCain's prickliness. If he ever watched himself on television, says one Democrat who has cosponsored legislation with him, he'd see why people say he's bitter.
"It'll be a lead-pipe cinch that John will go back to being John, and taking delight at poking conservatives in the eye," says Hayworth. "He'd like to have that status that a Ted Kennedy had as 'lion of the Senate,' doing those things that win him praise in the eyes of the Washington press corps."