Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) joked that it would be a tough decision to vote for Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) over Democrat Hillary Clinton if both won their party’s presidential nomination in 2016.
“It’s gonna be a tough choice,” McCain said with a laugh when asked about it in an interview with the New Republic published Tuesday.
However, McCain heaped praise on another prospective Republican presidential candidate in 2016, Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.). He called Rubio a “valuable candidate for president” and said his push for immigration reform will not impede his presidential prospects, harkening back to his own failed bid in 2008.
“He has a bright future in the party,” he said. “He is a valuable candidate for president. Some people say this will set him back, but remember, I got the nomination of the party after failing on immigration in 2007.”
McCain has had numerous dustups this year with the Tea Party-fueled wing of the GOP this year. He opposed Paul’s filibuster of CIA director John Brennan’s nomination over the U.S. use of drones, and described Paul, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) as “wacko birds.”
In the interview, he said the isolationist wing of the GOP has been strengthened by the recession.
“There was an isolationist wing that fought against Reagan. And now the bad economy has exacerbated what has always been out there,” he said.
McCain attempted to separate Paul’s brand of conservatism from his former running mate in 2008, Sarah Palin, arguing her message was positive.
“They came to power to keep things from getting done,” McCain said.
Reflecting on his own legacy, he said he has had the best ride, but still expressed some regret from his failed 2008 bid for president.
“Am I happy? I’d like to be president of the United States,” he said.