News & Politics

How Hill Staff Sees John McCain: Not a Good Follower

John McCain has gone from being a workhorse to a showhorse—at least according to the Best & Worst of Congress list compiled each election year by The Washingtonian. The poll asks congressional staff to rank and categorize lawmakers and gives some insight

In Congress since 1983 and the Senate since 1987, McCain started appearing on our lists in 1998—and the Arizona senator has received both praise and criticism. In his debut year he grabbed second place in our Workhorse, Showhorse, Strongest Backbone, and Hottest Temper categories. He has remained a fixture on the Temper and Showhorse lists.

He dropped off the Workhorse list starting in 2004. In 2006, Wisconsin’s Russ Feingold supplanted his campaign-finance-reforming friend McCain on the Gutsiest list.


McCain has owned the Worst Follower category, coming in first in four of the last five surveys. McCain strays so far from the GOP flock that he managed to beat out Jim Jeffords in 2002—the year after Jeffords left the Republican Party and began caucusing with the Democrats.

One other list McCain made was 2006’s Wish Would Run for President. Two years ago, staffers put McCain and Hillary Rodham Clinton in a dead heat for third place. Second place? Barack Obama. And in first? The pre-macaca George Allen.

The ’06 poll also foreshadowed the Democratic showdown between the policy-minded senator from New York and the charismatic newcomer from Illinois: Clinton won the top spot for Brainiest, while Obama made a showing in four categories: Most Eloquent, Best Dressed, Hunk—and Rising Star.

This article can be found in the April 2008 issue of The Washingtonian.