John McCain says he would ‘think about’ registering as an independent if a young man

Jamie Weinstein Senior Writer
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If John McCain was young and registering to vote for the first time, he would “think about” registering as an independent instead of as a Republican.

At least, that’s what the Arizona senator and 2008 GOP presidential nominee told the New York Times Magazine’s Mark Leibovich during an extensive profile.

“To pass the time on the drive back, I engage McCain in a game of hypothetical-question roulette,” Leibovich writes. “If he were a young man living in Arizona today, not a politician, would he register to vote as an Independent? ‘I would think about it,’ he says, but then catches himself and reasserts his faith in ‘the party of Lincoln and Ronald Reagan.’”

But the 77-year-old war hero went on to say he has every intention of supporting the GOP presidential nominee in 2016 — even if the nominee is Ted Cruz and even if Cruz is facing off against Hillary Clinton. (RELATED: McCain adviser on Ted Cruz: ‘McCain f*cking hates Cruz’)

“Would he consider supporting an Independent presidential candidate if Ted Cruz were the Republican nominee? ‘No, because I have to respect the process,'” Leibovich continues, quoting McCain. “Would he support his friend Hillary Clinton in a head to head against Cruz? ‘I will support the Republican ticket,’ he says, then adds: ‘With all due respect, that is a foolish question, my friend.'”

McCain has never expressed regret about choosing Sarah Palin as his running mate in 2008, and has gone out of his way to praise her, even as he finds himself sharply at odds with her on a variety of issues. But McCain did express dismay over the possibility that the former Alaska governor would endorse a primary challenge to South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, McCain’s best friend in the Senate.

“When I read Cruz’s quote about owing his success to Palin, McCain shrugs,” writes Leibovich. “Palin has suggested, too, that she might support Tea Party primary challengers to the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, in Kentucky and to Lindsey Graham in South Carolina, whom McCain has likened to a son. ‘Oh, I pray she wouldn’t do that,’ he says of Graham. ‘And you know, I find it hard to believe that she would.'”

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Jamie Weinstein