John McCain turned heads recently by saying that choosing between Hillary Clinton and Rand Paul for President would be a "tough choice."
John McCain, as part of a much larger interview with the New Republic, said that if the 2016 Presidential race came down to Hillary Clinton vs. Rand Paul, that would be a “tough choice.” Why is this news? Because American politics, and especially the Republican party, are so team-based, that when someone ignores the teams and bases a choice purely on merit, it’s worth pointing out. While McCain has clashed publicly with Paul, who along with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), he once called “wacko birds,” his respect for Hillary Clinton is rare among the GOP. Like in the leadup to the 2012 presidential race when few Republicans would utter a respectful word about President Obama, the general rule among the GOP is to bash Hillary Clinton, as the current front-runner for the Democratic nomination. (And incidentally, "wacko bird" is an excellent description of Ted Cruz.)
While Clinton is likely running, but could conceivably decide against it, Rand Paul is almost certainly running for President in 2016, and McCain’s statement bolsters the profile of a dwindling group, at least among elected or public Republicans: the moderate. The Republican nominee is going to have to appease the Tea Party wing of the GOP or hope that that vote is divided enough, and most candidates tend toward the former strategy. Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan have been establishing their far-right credentials for a while now, with Paul standing up as the most libertarian of the bunch. McCain is closer to Clinton on issues of foreign policy and maybe even some budget and social program issues. At the same time, Paul is a Republican, Clinton a Democrat, and that means he shares a lot with Paul that he doesn’t with Clinton.
So yes, that would be a tough choice for McCain, but really, this is the latest sign of something that you may have already noticed lately: Sane McCain is back!