The Return of the 'Maverick'

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There are rumblings of a great hero's return in the Senate. An old legend has been dusted off after years spent lurking in the shadows, forgotten and abandoned in favor of newer, flashier political personas. After a long wait, people are calling Sen. John McCain the "maverick" again. 

You may have noticed John McCain at the forefront of every major Senate fight over the last few months. He helped broker the bipartisan Gang of Eight immigration reform bill that passed the Senate, and was a key hand in drumming up the 14 Republican votes required to help it pass. He was in the middle of the "nuclear option" negotiations to avoid a filibuster fight. And he won, too. On Sunday, during an appearance on CNN's State of the Union, McCain called for a review of "stand your ground" laws and praised the President's impromptu Friday speech about Trayvon Martin and race.

This recent round of McCain politicking has op-ed writers clamouring over themselves to declare that the old John McCain is back, finally. The Chicago Tribune's Jules Whitcover says "that the old maverick is back," after the Arizona senator turned into a staunch conservative to earn the 2008 Republican nomination. "The maverick is back, and this is good for America, good for the Senate and good for Republicans if they have the sense to know it, which some do but many do not," writes The Hill's Brent Budowsy. Other have noticed, too, like National Journal's Chris Frates, who says "the fun, moderate, maverick is back." 

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After McCain won the nomination in 2008 and lost to Obama, he spent the following two years more or less keeping up the hard-line conservative act, to the dismay of his former fans. McCain railed against Obamacare, demanded we "complete the danged fence" on the border with Mexico, and led the unbearable search for the truth in Benghazi. He abandoned the good faith deal-making reputation that made him so popular before. But that's in the past, and the John McCain people actually like is here again. 

And Republicans should be thankful for it, according to Budowsky: "Americans widely despise Congress today, including House Republicans. They scorn the gridlock and obstruction that McCain is wisely working to end." And McCain somehow realized the same thing. People don't like Congress! "There’s a view that a reason for coming here is not to get something done but to prevent anything from getting done," McCain told The Washington Post's Dana Milbank. McCain sees the tide shifting in Democrats favor. The Republican-held Congress has spent too long trying to stop anything from getting done and people are tired of it. McCain credited his rebirth to "be in tune with the people of Arizona," when speaking with Milbank. 

And the return of the maverick, the popular model of McCain toys, has brought on a massive amount of praise for the 76-year-old Republican. "The important thing is not where McCain has been but that he’s back. He’s needed more than ever," says Milbank. The maverick's return could save the entire Republican party, if you believe some of his fans. "McCain could be the cavalry of common sense arriving to rescue his party from becoming a demographic black hole that alienates everyone except old conservative white men, and rescue the House and Senate from the black hole of historic public disapproval," says Budowsky. Or, he's just making it harder to figure out what will happen next. "And the Senate just got a lot more unpredictable," Frates says. That damn Maverick. He was always so unpredictable. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.