JONATHAN CHAIT MAY 12, 2010
John McCain's communications director, Brian Rogers, has an odd dismissal of the charge that McCain has shifted to the right:
Rogers added that McCain draws more attention by dint of his role as a former nominee of the party and that the criticism that he is somehow changing from the old McCain has been around for years -- noting that people leveled that criticism at him as far back as 2004 when he endorsed George W. Bush for re-election.
Have people been saying that McCain is moving right since 2004? Yes. That's because McCain has been moving right since 2004. For most of his career, McCain was a mainstream Republican with an occasional iconoclastic streak. He started moving left during his first campaign for president. After he lost, he moved further left, becoming the co-sponsor of virtually the entire Democratic agenda and the unofficial leader of the opposition. McCain considered leaving the GOP in 2001, and had multiple discussions about joining John Kerry's ticket in 2004, one of them initiated by his own adviser. At some point in 2004, he decided not to leave the GOP and to seek the 2008 GOP nomination. He began to campaign energetically with Bush, and has moved steadily rightward since, systematically abandoning all his iconoclastic positions.
Now, it's true that most political reporters didn't notice what was going on until around 2008. McCain was extraordinarily effective at muddying the waters for a long time about his leftward shift starting in 2000 and his rightward shift starting in 2004. But hardly anybody is buying his act anymore.