Has being nominated by his own party had a cathartic effect on Sen. John McCain? The man who made a career of being a "maverick" and challenging his party on issues like campaign finance reform, global warming and, at times, even tax cuts, has been a loyal soldier during the first six months of the Obama administration.
Sure, there have been some cases where he's worked with Obama. The decision to gut the F-22 fighter plane is the biggest example. But that was something that Defense Secretary Robert Gates (the Bush carryover) recommended getting rid of -- and McCain has been battling with defense contractors almost as long as he's been fighting with the GOP.
But, notice that Mr. Bipartisan came out against Sonia Sotomayor on Monday -- splitting with his usual loyal sidekick Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, a Judicial Committee member who announced last week that he would vote for the judge's confirmation to the Supreme Court.
That came a day after McCain slammed the group some see as his moderate/conservative Democratic counterparts in the House -- the Blue Dogs. McCain showed their version of bipartisanship nothing but contempt:
“The Blue Dogs, they always bark and they never bite,” Arizona Sen. John McCain said on an interview that aired Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union. “They almost always -- in fact, always, roll over and then play dead.”
In short, the Blue Dogs brand of bipartisanship isn't the McCain variety -- or at least he doesn't think so.
Of course, it might be the case that McCain is being a little bit extra cautious as a member of the Republican conference right now. Already, two Republican hopefuls have declared their intention to challenge him for his Senate seat in 2010 -- one of whom is challenging him explicitly on the immigration issue.
McCain is just ornery enough that it could come down to a simple case of being "agin'" the guy who was against him. For the first several months of 2001, McCain took pleasure in opposing George W. Bush on issues like stem cell research and, yes, tax cuts, though he drew back on much verbal criticism after 9/11 (and became a passionate supporter of Bush in Iraq).
Whatever the reason, John McCain seems about as happy as he has been for a while in the Republican Senate conference.