MCCAIN IS GONE AND HE’S NOT COMING BACK…. As recently as April, there was some polling suggesting that Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) primary race was down to single-digits. Understandably nervous, the Republican incumbent did what he had to do — he spent like crazy.

When the dust settled, McCain’s strategy worked. He’d spent $21 million on the primary, and ended up getting 56% of the Arizona Republicans’ vote. As ridiculous as this may seem, the “septuagenarian maverick paid approximately $74.64 per vote.”

Nevertheless, with the primary behind him, McCain can take some comfort in knowing he’s very likely to win a fifth term. As for what he might do with this opportunity, David Broder has some advice.

What [the Senate needs] badly is adult leadership, and it’s now incumbent on McCain to demonstrate that he is prepared to fulfill this role for both his party and his country. […]

[N]ow, as the 73-year-old senator prepares for what may well be his final term in a congressional career that began in 1982, the time has come for McCain to look to his legacy — and conditions are right.

In a Congress in which Democrats have pitiful approval ratings and Republicans even worse, McCain is one of the few names that does not draw instant contempt from the voters. The reputation he established for independence — for being his own man, no matter what the pressures — has survived the vagaries of an exceptionally long career.


Over the course of several years, there were so many “what happened to John McCain?” columns that the observation became a cliche. Pundits who adored the conservative senator and showered him with praise struggled to come to grips with McCain’s descent into a becoming a bitter, confused, hard-right hack.

If Broder’s column is any indication, we should perhaps brace ourselves for a new Village push: “maybe the old John McCain can come back to us?”

He won’t. McCain has transformed his persona more than once during his lengthy political career, but by all appearances, the angry, cantankerous ideologue that emerged several years ago is the one we’re stuck with. Broder seems to believe this was merely a facade, necessary to win a GOP primary in a “red” state, and now that the primary is over, the previous incarnation of John McCain can once again grace us with his presence.

But there’s simply no reason to even hope for yet another transformation. Just last year, McCain seemed like a lock for re-election — there was no meaningful talk of a primary opponent — and he nevertheless acted like a spoiled, stubborn, hyper-partisan child. This was, in other words, the real personality.

The McCain that Broder is pining for is gone. Waiting for his return is a fool’s errand.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.