Arizona Sen. John McCain, trying to fend off a primary challenger trying to outflank him on the right, also found himself trying Sunday to put straight whether he was a "maverick" or not.
McCain's "maverick" reputation and his past willingness to work with Democrats on issues like the environment, campaign finance reform and immigration before his run for President in 2008 often frustrated or angered fellow Republicans and he has lately made it appear like it's a moniker he'd like people to forget.
McCain startled many political observers when he told Newsweek magazine
"I never considered myself a maverick" -- even as Sarah Palin was describing him that way in a campaign appearance late last month in Arizona for her old running mate.
When he appeared on Fox News Sunday
, host Chris Wallace pressed McCain on the point, playing a 2008 campaign ad that called him "the original maverick" and showing McCain saying, " If you want real reform and if you want change, send a team of mavericks. And what maverick really means, what this team of maverick really means, is we understand who we work for."
McCain responded, "Look, when I was fighting against my own president, whether we needed more troops in Iraq, or ... spending was completely out of control, then I was a maverick. Now that I'm fighting against this spending administration and this out-of-control and reckless health care plan, then I'm a partisan."
Hayworth labels himself the "consistent conservative" on his campaign web site
and he has had fun poking McCain over the "maverick" quote. Hayworth told the Politico
, "To the extent that he can encourage amnesia in the electorate, that's what he's aiming to do."
A Rasmussen Reports poll
conducted April 13 showed that Hayworth had pulled within 5 points of McCain, with McCain leading him 47 percent to 42 percent among likely Republican voters. The margin of error was 4 points. The primary is August 24.