POLITICS

What Really Happened To The Old John McCain

12/10/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

A defining moment of the "old" John McCain--as many Americans, even some of his friends, have begun to refer to him as he was before his run for the Presidency in 2008--took place in February, 2000, during his first bid for the White House, when he was challenging George W. Bush for the Republican nomination in the South Carolina primary. McCain had recently upset Bush in New Hampshire and was in a buoyant mood, vowing that, like "Luke Skywalker fighting the Death Star," he would not only defeat Bush but reform a party corrupted by "big money" and, as he later put it, "agents of intolerance."

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Obama and his supporters decried McCain's tactics. Yet some of the strongest criticism came from people whom McCain revered or who had long revered him. And it was not merely about strategy--the backbiting that always consumes losing campaigns. It was about the very nature of John McCain. In their eyes, at least, their hero was losing not only an election but his reputation--or, as one prominent backer put it, "his soul."

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