Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainFormer Trump Defense chief Esper to join McCain Institute We need an independent 1/6 commission that the whole country can have confidence in GOP targets Manchin, Sinema, Kelly on Becerra MORE (R-Ariz.) on Monday blamed the "Eastern press" for planting the idea he has changed his positions on key issues in recent months.

McCain dismissed the notion that he has tacked to the right on matters such as immigration and climate change in order to beat back a primary challenge from former Rep. J.D. Hayworth.

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Asked by Politics Daily about comments his close friend and colleague Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSenate holds longest vote in history as Democrats scramble to save relief bill Biden helps broker Senate deal on unemployment benefits Senate braces for 'God-awful,' 'stupid' session ahead of COVID-19 relief vote MORE (R-S.C.) made about his move away from edgy past positions because "John's got a primary. He's got to focus on getting reelected," McCain responded, "Lindsey knows that I don't change in my positions.

"I have not changed in my positions. I know how popular it is for the Eastern press to paint me as having changed positions," he said. "That's not true. I know they're going to continue to say it. It's fundamentally false. Not only am I sure that they'll say it, you'll say it. You'll write it. And I've just grown to accept that."

One major storyline McCain's critics have advanced is that the senator has abandoned his stances on previous positions on which he negotiated with Democrats, and that his new stances are disingenuous.

They say that — even going back to his 2008 presidential bid against then-Sen. Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaWhy is Joe Biden dodging the public and the press? Here's who Biden is now considering for budget chief Pentagon issues report revealing ex-White House doctor 'belittled' subordinates, violated alcohol policies MORE (D-Ill.) — McCain has forsaken his position as a "maverick" within his own party. McCain even said in April that he has "never considered myself a maverick."

Those charges come amid the Democrats' broader midterm narrative that Republicans have strayed too far outside the mainstream to be trusted to govern.

Still, McCain has a wide lead over Hayworth in his primary race despite the fact that the ex-congressman and some on the right have knocked McCain's conservative bona fides.

Despite the pressure, McCain said he is proud of his record.

"I'll say I'm proud of my record, I'm proud of my leadership, I'm proud of leading the fight against the stimulus package and ObamaCare and the leadership role I played in the Senate and with Republicans," he said. "And they're very happy with me. Call Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell makes failed bid to adjourn Senate after hours-long delay Paul Ryan to host fundraiser for Cheney amid GOP tensions Senate Democrats near deal to reduce jobless boost to 0 MORE or Jon Kyl or anybody else."