McCain insists that he has always been more conservative than many of his fans believe him to be. But the most important perception people have about McCain is not about ideology; it's about integrity. After staking his reputation on the moral high ground by speaking truth to power on issues ranging from deficits to torture, McCain is uniquely vulnerable to anything that hints of hypocrisy--even on questions that ordinary politicians would get a pass on.(emphasis mine)
The first two lines above are important. Many people who were either politically unaware or considered themselves independents or moderates of any stripe back in 2000 felt like they got McCain because he seemed like a "real" person, a person they could relate to. But if you look at where McCain's politics actually are, they are right to very right of center, which is contra his image as a high minded centrist. McCain supported the gay marriage ban in Arizona (which was rejected by the voters, meaning that the citizens of the state are much more in touch with the spirit of famed Arizona conservative lawmaker, Barry Goldwater, than is the man who sits in his senate seat), and he is easily the most hawkish voice in the Senate on Iraq, where McCain would like to send 20,000 additional troops (no mention is made of where these troops would come from or what exactly it is they would be doing). And that, of course, overlooks the fact that most Americans want us to disengage from Iraq, not put more troops in harm's way.
Secondly, McCain's currency is his integrity and it's hard to look at him now when he's hired as his campaign manager one of the men who viciously slandered him during the 2000 primary campaign, or to watch him break bread with people he once labeled as "agents of intolerence" and not wonder how low the I-bank account must be running. And that leads to this other telling quote...
"A profile in courage can become a profile in unrestrained ambition," says former Reagan White House chief of staff Ken Duberstein, who was one of the few G.O.P. establishment figures to support McCain's 2000 presidential campaign. "He has to remember who his friends are and not spend his integrity on one-night stands with those who will never fully trust him."