Sen. John McCainJohn McCainDepleted Dems look to Senate for 2020 nominee Overnight Cybersecurity: Retired general picked to head DHS | Graham vows to probe Russian election interference Senate holds two-hour Biden lovefest MORE (R-Ariz.) joked that it would be a tough decision to vote for Sen. Rand PaulRand PaulGOP rep: Trump has 'extra-constitutional' view of presidency The ignored question: What does the future Republican Party look like? Rand Paul skeptical about Romney as secretary of State MORE (R-Ky.) over Democrat Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonReid: Filibuster will end, it's just a matter of when Sanders campaign manager: Don't buy David Brock's blame game for Clinton loss Clinton aide hammers Trump campaign: 'Own up to' giving alt-right a platform MORE if both won their party’s presidential nomination in 2016.

“It’s gonna be a tough choice,” McCain said with a laugh when asked about it in an interview with the New Republic published Tuesday. 

ADVERTISEMENT
McCain clarified that he believes Paul is trying to expand the GOP brand, and that he represents the same libertarian-leaning part of the party once represented by his father, former Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas).

However, McCain heaped praise on another prospective Republican presidential candidate in 2016, Sen. Marco RubioMarco RubioWhat the 2016 election can tell us about 2018 midterms Fight over water bill heats up in Senate Brown-Mandel Ohio Senate race will be brutal referendum on Trumpism MORE (Fla.). He called Rubio a “valuable candidate for president” and said his push for immigration reform will not impede his presidential prospects, harkening back to his own failed bid in 2008.

“He has a bright future in the party,” he said. “He is a valuable candidate for president. Some people say this will set him back, but remember, I got the nomination of the party after failing on immigration in 2007.”

McCain has had numerous dustups this year with the Tea Party-fueled wing of the GOP this year. He opposed Paul’s filibuster of CIA director John Brennan’s nomination over the U.S. use of drones, and described Paul, Sen. Ted CruzTed CruzCruz defends Trump's Taiwan call Ark., Texas senators put cheese dip vs. queso to the test Pentagon's suppressed waste report only tip of the inefficient machine MORE (R-Texas) and Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashGOP rep: Trump has 'extra-constitutional' view of presidency Flag burning is just another PR stunt for the media to cover Trump tweets about flag burning, setting off a battle MORE (R-Mich.) as “wacko birds.”

In the interview, he said the isolationist wing of the GOP has been strengthened by the recession.

“There was an isolationist wing that fought against Reagan. And now the bad economy has exacerbated what has always been out there,” he said.

McCain attempted to separate Paul’s brand of conservatism from his former running mate in 2008, Sarah Palin, arguing her message was positive.

“They came to power to keep things from getting done,” McCain said.

Reflecting on his own legacy, he said he has had the best ride, but still expressed some regret from his failed 2008 bid for president.

“Am I happy? I’d like to be president of the United States,” he said.