The voting pattern seems at odds with the popular narrative that McCain's maverick tendencies make him an unreliable conservative.So basically, it boils down to this: McCain will say anything to get elected, and strike a mavericky pose when he can do so without risk to the republican agenda.
"He is a conservative who votes conservative on most issues," said Keith Poole, a political scientist at the University of California-San Diego. "By no means is he a liberal or even a moderate."
Poole, who compiles a widely respected analysis of all Senate votes, ranks McCain as slightly less conservative than most Republicans throughout his career and near the far edge of the right while running for president.
During the 10 years The Republic examined, McCain crossed over to vote with Democrats 19 times in 82 close votes. He did so just once in the four years he was running for president: 1999, 2000, 2007 and 2008. All 12 of the close votes he missed happened in those years, too.
Even so, in 59 of the 82 close votes, Republicans got what they wanted regardless of McCain's position. In those 59 cases, McCain broke with his party 16 times.
At least the paper that knows him best isn't all gooey in the grips of the media mancrush.