Lindsey Graham’s reportedly polling under 50 percent in South Carolina and now here’s Maverick wondering aloud if this is his last rodeo in the Senate. Without the two of them around, who will speak for the dubious “pro-democracy” Sunni insurgents of tomorrow?

At long last, the day of rejoicing is at hand. Or is it?

[At this point two supporters of President Obama cut in to thank McCain for being on “our president’s side for once in your life.” McCain tells them, “The president and I, he’s in his last term, I’m probably in mine, the relationship we have had over the past three years is quite good. Quite good.”]

Is this really your last term?

Nah, I don’t know. I was trying to make a point. I have to decide in about two years so I don’t have to make a decision. I don’t want to be one of these old guys that should’ve shoved off.

What he decides will depend, I think, on whether the GOP spends the next two years trending towards Rand Paul’s version of a “modest” foreign policy. Incumbents often retire if it looks like their party, or their views within the party, are headed for a long spell in the wilderness. Maybe Maverick doesn’t want the aggravation of battling, and losing to, isolationists on the Senate floor. With McCain, though, I think he’d consider it his duty to stay and fight for interventionism, especially if the odds of Paul winning the nomination increase. He’d probably relish the opportunity to lead a band of hawks against the new semi-isolationist establishment, especially if President Rand is at the head of it.

Consider the logistics of McCain running for a new term in 2016, though, while Paul is in ascendance within the national party. As I’ve argued before, Maverick would almost certainly rather endorse a hawkish Democrat like Hillary over a dovish Republican like Rand. Is it possible to win a GOP primary in a red state like Arizona in a presidential year when you’ve announced you’re staying neutral or, worse, crossing the aisle against your party’s nominee? I think it’s an either/or for Mac — if he feels so strongly that Paul should be stopped that he’s willing to vote against him, then he’ll announce he’s retiring rather than risk a probably futile primary and go out in a blaze of Democratic-supporting maverick-y glory.

Then again, given the animosity towards him on the right over immigration and his incessant interventionist boosterism, tea partiers in Arizona will probably already be scrambling to defeat McCain in 2015 irrespective of Paul’s outlook nationally. McCain won’t give them that satisfaction; if he concludes that he’s unlikely to win, he’ll pull the plug and then spend the rest of his days in his office screwing conservatives even more gleefully than before. Be careful what you wish for, my friends.

Exit question for righties who think a McCain endorsement of Hillary over Paul would mean nothing to anyone: You sure?

jmm

Update: Hmmmm.