McCain welcomed back to Senate

Joins Kerry in club of also-rans

Senator John McCain of Arizona entered a Republican caucus on Capitol Hill yesterday. Senator John McCain of Arizona entered a Republican caucus on Capitol Hill yesterday.
Associated Press / November 19, 2008
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WASHINGTON - The red-and-blue Senate trolley rolled up to the Capitol basement yesterday, with a lone senator in the front seat checking a piece of paper before slipping it back into his jacket pocket.

"Welcome back," someone called out.

"Thank you, good to see ya," came the well-practiced reply from Senator John McCain as he stepped to the ground.

Then, a more familiar greeting came from another senator who had been riding in back.

"John, wait up," called out Senator John F. Kerry, clapping a big hand on McCain's shoulder. The pair conferred quietly as they rode up an escalator toward lunch with their colleagues.

Two failed presidential nominees, minus Secret Service detail or much suspense about their futures, back to the Senate - same as it ever was.

Explicitly or not, Kerry's backslap marked McCain's induction into an unofficial bipartisan caucus of would-be commanders in chief who fell short of the big prize and landed, humbled somewhat, back where they started.

As Kerry and other onetime presidential hopefuls know, a seat in the Senate is a comfy consolation. Aides screen your calls, Senate pages bring lunch, and at least 17 colleagues now serving know what it's like to take steps toward White House bids, only to be turned back.

Among them, only Kerry has walked as far down that road as McCain. The Massachusetts Democrat captured his party's presidential nomination in 2004, lost the general election, and returned to Washington stripped of all that had come with it.

McCain's pivot back to life as a senator was abrupt. Only 24 hours earlier, the Republican had been seated awkwardly next to President-elect Barack Obama at a bury-the-hatchet meeting, looking out again from a bubble of presidential-level security, surrounded by trappings of a life that might have been his.

McCain, meanwhile, is setting up a political action committee as a first step in running for a fifth term in the Senate.

A spokesperson said the 72-year-old senator decided with his senior advisers last night to set up the fund-raising PAC.

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