According to the Pew Research Center, when asked to describe their views of McCain in a word, the term "maverick" didn’t even come up. Nor did "reformer" or "independent." Ruh-roh. It looks like the embrace of Bush, 100 years in Iraq and his newfound affection for Bushenomics have all done serious damage to McCain’s perceived maverickness:
John McCain once had the most powerful brand in American politics.
He was often called the country’s most popular politician and widely admired for his independent streak. It wasn’t too many years ago that "maverick" was the cliche of choice in describing him.
But that term didn’t even make the list this year when voters were asked by the Pew Research Center to sum up McCain in a single word. "Old" got the most mentions, followed by "honest," "experienced," "patriot," "conservative" and a dozen more. The words "independent," "change" or "reformer" weren’t among them.
Voters have notoriously short memories, but it could be argued that McCain cheapened his own brand.
He embraced President Bush and attempted to become, like Bush, the choice of the Republican establishment. In the process, he helped obliterate recollections of his first run for president, when he became the first Republican in a long time with strong crossover appeal to independents and Democrats.
Losing his reputation for independence could prove particularly costly this year.
It turns out that there may be a cost for flip-flopping on tax cuts for the top 1% and wanting to "bomb bomb bomb Iran." Who would have thunk it?
And the cost could be a whole set of voters (independents) who will be very important in determining the outcomes in states such as Colorado, New Mexico and Montana, to name a few. Additionally, being tied to the GOP brand this year is as close as it gets to a political death sentence (ask GOP House candidates in Mississippi, Louisiana and Illinois about that).
John McCain may just have lost his greatest asset.