Sen. John McCain — a Democrat?

There was confusion Wednesday after the Arizona Republican mistakenly strolled into President Obama’s meeting with Senate Democrats at the Capitol.

The room full of Democrats — who happened to be meeting in the same room where the Senate GOP usually holds their weekly policy luncheons — erupted in applause and laughter as the former Republican presidential candidate made his entrance.

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McCain said he “trust[s] the judgment” of the jury that acquitted Zimmerman, but the “stand your ground” law may have to be reconsidered

McCain also praised President Barack Obama’s speech about Trayvon Martin and the racial profiling that black men regularly face. While many have called Obama’s speech “divisive” for emphasizing issues of race, McCain thought the remarks were appropriate.

“Events like this highlight and emphasize that we have a long way to go,” McCain said. “The president very appropriately highlighted a lot of that yesterday, as only the president can.”

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Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham and John McCain have been asked by President Barack Obama to travel to Egypt next week to urge the military to move ahead on new elections, the senators said Tuesday…

“The place is in turmoil, obviously,” the Arizona senator said. “We have credibility with everybody there, all the different factions there.”

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All of this is to say the Mac is Back. Again.

It has been a long wait. The maverick of 2000 and the thorn in George W. Bush’s side during the years that followed became a very different figure as he captured the 2008 Republican nomination, gave us Sarah Palin, fought against health-care reform and staved off a tea party challenger in 2010. He walked away from earlier positions on tax cuts, campaign finance reform, immigration, climate change, gays in the military and other issues. When he continued that course even after the 2010 election, I figured he had been lost to the right wing…

Many on the left won’t forgive McCain his trespasses in 2008 and 2010, and many on the right won’t forgive what he did before and since. But McCain has arguably turned himself into the most important legislator in a generation, at the center of the debate on war, terrorism, spending, corruption, health care and just about everything else…

The important thing is not where McCain has been but that he’s back. He’s needed more than ever.

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Barack Obama, to hear his advisers tell it, has finally found The One he has been looking for: John McCain.

“We have been looking literally for years for someone we can cut deals with, and finally someone has stepped up,” a White House official said. West Wing aides say they now talk with McCain roughly every other day…

White House officials said the process seemed to loosen up McCain. He no longer seems petulant or stubborn in their private conversations. This was on full display in a 90-minute conversation McCain and others had with Obama last week in the Oval Office.

“He has been a little bit grumpy — that’s gone,” said the senior White House aide. “He was joking with people in the room. He would say, ‘Let me frame it this way.’ In the past, generally what you got, not just with him but with most members, was, ‘I disagree with you.’”

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A recent article in the conservative National Review described McCain as “Obama’s secret weapon” and a “lethal threat” to a Republican victory in the budget battles this fall…

So popular has the Arizona Republican become among Democrats that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid – who in 2008 said, “I can’t stand John McCain” – now describes him as a “great senator,” right up there with the late Ted Kennedy, the Democratic “lion of the Senate” who became a bridge between parties after his own presidential ambitions were crushed.

“He’s become our go-to guy,” a senior Democratic aide said of the 76-year-old white-haired senator…

“I think John has more job satisfaction now than any time in his career,” said Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, one of McCain’s closest friends.

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McCain, in an Associated Press interview, said that he and Obama “trust each other.” White House chief of staff Denis McDonough, among the Obama advisers who speak regularly with McCain, praised the lawmaker as a “refreshing” partner who “welcomes a debate and welcomes action.”

In return, McCain has secured increased access to the White House and an opportunity to redeem his reputation as a Capitol Hill “maverick.” That image was tainted when McCain tacked to the right during his failed 2008 presidential run against Obama…

The administration also will try to work with McCain ahead of impending budget battles, McDonough said, given that the senator and the White House agree there is a negative impact from across-the-board federal budget cuts, particularly on the military and defense industry…

“He is the president of the United States,” McCain said. “You can strongly disagree and still be respectful.”

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GWEN IFILL: So you think that [Obama] has changed, not you?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: Well, I think, obviously look, when I was railing against President Bush and voting against his tax cuts and saying that Rumsfeld ought to be fired and a number of other things, I was the brave maverick taking on his own party. So now, when we have a Democrat in the White House, who I lost to and take him on on Obamacare and other issues now he’s the angry, bitter old man. It’s neither is true. I’m just a person here carrying on a legacy that was handed down to me by a number of greater leaders than me, including Bob Dole, that looking for solutions to problems.

And so I want to work with the president where I can. And there are many areas where we do not agree fundamentally, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t work with the president of the United States. And the American people want us to do that. There’s such a thing as compromise without betraying principle.

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“The people who are pushing this Obamacare vs. government shutdown, none of them that I know were here the last time we saw that movie,” he says…

Asked about their 2016 presidential aspirations, McCain isn’t very charitable, calling them only “viable.”

On the topic of his partnership with Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, a key Democratic leader, McCain laughed off the criticism voiced by some Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

“Sen. Schumer is a person who is as good as his word,” McCain says. “His word is good, and he reminds me, in a way, of the work that I used to do with Ted Kennedy.”

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