Because he was a senator known for working across the aisle with liberal Democratic senators such as the late Edward Kennedy and the recently defeated Russ Feingold, there was some speculation that McCain, after losing to Obama in 2008, might become a key ally for the new president. Instead, McCain became one of Obama's fiercest critics, more likely to be standing alongside Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., (a one-time adversary of McCain on campaign finance) than with any Democrat.
McCain's conversion from Senate centrist to one of the chamber's most conservative members came in a year that brought him a tough primary challenge from former Rep. J.D. Hayworth. Hayworth zeroed in on McCain's advocacy of campaign finance reform and comprehensive immigration reform to portray him as too moderate for Arizona Republicans. McCain moved right on immigration and said little about campaign finance in a year when his party benefited from a huge influx of funds from donors who took advantage of a loophole in the tax code to make campaign contributions without disclosing their identity.
Though McCain's latest NJ ranking is a stark contrast with his past record, the senator's spokeswoman, Brooke Buchanan, said his ideology has not changed. "But I can assure you," she added, "the legislative agenda in the Senate sure has."
The ten most conservative members of the Senate include:
1. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) 89.7
1. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) 89.7
1. John Cornyn (R-Texas) 89.7
1. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) 89.7
1. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) 89.7
1. John McCain (R-Ariz.) 89.7
1. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) 89.7
1. John Thune (R-S.D.) 89.7
9. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) 87.3
10. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) 86.8
* -- Conservative Composite Score