Which is why many eyebrows are being raised when he has reversed his stands on "Don[t Ask. Don't Tell,"
a bipartisan proposal for a deficit reduction commission, even though he initially was one of the measure's co-sponsors, on climate change and on amnesty for illegal workers. Let's not forget he originally opposed President Bush's tax cuts he claimed helped only the rich. And later flipped flopped.
"I don't believe that I've changed," McCain told Doyle McManus in a story published in Sunday's Los Angeles Times.
I beg to differ with the old war horse. I side with other political observers that for the time being McCain is shifting right to secure his nomination in the Arizona Republican Primary. His most formidable challenger will be former Congressman J.D. Hayworth who said he will announce his candidacy Monday.
Conservatives have never trusted McCain, claiming he is too bipartisan and fault him for joining Democrat Russ Feingold for the campaign finance law and Democrat Ted Kennedy who coauthered the failed immigration reform bill with the Viet Nam war hero.
But McCain knows Arizona and how to beat tough challengers in the primaries, with a lot of help from independents who can vote in their state primaries. His mentor was conservative icon Sen. Barry Goldwater.
Turning right has helped McCain buck the anti-incumbent mood as well as announcing his former GOP vice presidential running mate Sarah Palin endorses him and will campaign with him prior to the August primary.
It is no coincidence that McCain's right turn came after polls in November indicated he and Hayworth were dead even.
A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely 2010 Republican Primary voters in Arizona finds the longtime incumbent leading Hayworth by a 53% to 31% margin.
To hear McCain tell it, he has never changed his position on the military's ban of homosexuals despite saying at a 2006 event at Iowa State that he would follow the advise of the military brass.
No doubt McCain lost his temper because he wasn't informed in advance that Navy Adm. Michael G. Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, announced the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy was wrong and a review to change it was underway.
But as McManus notes in his story, critics overlooked McCain's other, blunter statements of his views. "I remain opposed to the open expression of homosexuality in the U.S. military," McCain wrote in 2007.
McCain explained his reversal on the deficit commission:
His vote against the deficit commission he once supported is harder to explain except as an act of party loyalty (Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell asked for it) and as another way to take a swipe at Obama. He said it's because he feared a commission with a Democratic majority would recommend tax increases. But McCain doesn't much like the Democrat who defeated him in the 2008 presidential election. And it's not simply because he lost the race.
The two tangled even before the presidential campaign, when then-Sen. Obama briefly signed on to a McCain proposal for bipartisan ethics legislation -- only to back out when Democratic leaders sponsored a different bill.
The Palin endorsement is a coup for the McCain campaign. It could split ultra-conservative and Tea Party support for Hayworth. It must be noted that Palin at least is expressing her appreciation for McCain choosing her as his running mate in 2008. Her other endorsements and campaign commitments include rallying cries for rightwing Republicans Michelle Bachman of Minnesota and Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
Another plus in McCain's campaign is luring the popular Scott Brown for an endorsement and campaign help. Brown, the newly elected Republican Senator from Massachusetts, is a darling flavor of the month of the conservative wing of the party.
What McCain is up against is the questionable strength yielded by Arizona's large contingent of conservatives. "We cannot depend on that man to be a conservative," Rob Haney, chairman of the Maricopa Country Republican Committee representing Phoenix, told the local daily newspaper.
McCain's once-powerful support from independents is particularly lacking; just 38 percent approved of his performance. But among Republicans, McCain retains solid support; 51 percent approved and just 14 percent disapproved, according to a telephone poll conducted Jan. 7-22 with 629 registered voters.
McCain's war chest is $5 million compared to Hayworth's $100,000.
What's so frustrating is that McCain is no better or worse than any other politician. During election cycles, they turn themselves into whores pandering to their constituents for the sole purpose of getting reelected without regard for what's best for the country. Principles, if they have any, fly out the door. Ergo, the proverbial flip flop.
If I were his banker, I wouldn't deposit his word.