A new Los Angeles Times report, which discusses McCain's struggle to maintain his reputation as a political "maverick" while cultivating his image as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, invokes reason magazine Editor-in-Chief Matt Welch's recent book, McCain: The Myth of a Maverick:
But McCain's positioning for the 2008 race undercut that firebrand image. He now supports making
the Bush tax cuts permanent. He has vowed to appoint conservative judges. And he gave the commencement speech at Falwell's college, Liberty University. "I do not believe in holding grudges in life or in politics," McCain said at the time.
Around 2005 or so, he realized he was running for president and he made a calculated decision . . . he was going to do whatever was necessary to win this office," said Matt Welch, editor in chief of Reason magazine, whose book "McCain" is subtitled "The Myth of a Maverick."
Nonetheless, analysts say McCain still fits into a venerable tradition of legislators who tend to back their political party but will go against it on key issues. "A maverick doesn't mean you're always against your party," said Julian Zelizer, a history professor at Princeton University.
Zelizer pointed to the lingering distrust of McCain within the GOP. "So many Republicans just hate him because he doesn't play ball," he said. "That's the definition of what a maverick is."
Those resentments have created a delicate balancing act. McCain cannot denigrate Bush and GOP orthodoxy to the point that he alienates already-unenthused Republican voters. But he also must convince independents and conservative Democrats disillusioned by Bush's presidency that his outsider credentials are genuine.
"He needs to basically keep those two groups, who fundamentally hate each other's guts on every issue, behind him," Welch said.