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The Arizona lawmaker, looking to thwart a primary challenge from a conservative Republican former congressman, played down his history of working with Democrats on issues like overhauling US immigration policy, curbing big money influence in politics, or fighting climate change.
“I never considered myself a maverick,” Newsweek quoted him as saying. “I consider myself a person who serves the people of Arizona to the best of his abilities.”
McCain embraced the label in the past, notably during his 2008 presidential run, when his campaign ran a television advertisement branding him and running mate Sarah Palin “the original mavericks” and when he played down some of their policy disagreements by quipping “what do you expect from two mavericks?”
A McCain aide highlighted a passage from the prologue of the senator’s 2002 book, “Worth Fighting For: The Education of an American Maverick, and the Heroes Who Inspired Him,” in which the lawmaker expressed discomfort with the label “even when it is meant as a compliment.”
“I worry that the act might be getting a little tired for a man of my years,” McCain wrote.
“Better for old men to be known as collegial team players, who expect to find the warmth of their associations a tonic for fears of approaching infirmity and extinction,” he wrote.
But he went on to underscore his “instinctive resistance to institutional customs that strike me as empty gestures of submission” and highlight his “acute, much too acute, sensitivity to abuses of authority.”
“I have my reputation, and not enough years left in my career to improve it much. I’m an independent-minded, well-intentioned public servant to some. And to others, I’m a self-styled, self-righteous, maverick pain in the ass,” he wrote.
Recent polls have shown McCain easily beating former representative JD Hayworth, who has sought to capitalize on anti-Washington sentiment and the energized conservative “Tea Party” political insurgency.