Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainCongress brings back corrupt, costly, and inequitably earmarks Trump knocks CNN for 'completely false' report Gaetz was denied meeting The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - Biden, lawmakers start down a road with infrastructure 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 GrahamOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Senate confirms Mallory to lead White House environment council | US emissions dropped 1.7 percent in 2019 | Interior further delays Trump rule that would make drillers pay less to feds The Memo: Biden puts 9/11 era in rear view Senate confirms Biden's pick to lead White House environmental council 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 ObamaBernie Sanders says he disagrees with Tlaib's call for 'no more police' Obama: Biden made 'right decision' on Afghanistan Biden spoke to Bush, Obama ahead of Afghanistan troop withdrawal 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 McConnellThe Memo: Biden puts 9/11 era in rear view Anti-Asian hate crimes bill overcomes first Senate hurdle Greitens Senate bid creates headache for GOP MORE or Jon Kyl or anybody else."