McCain: Voting between Rand Paul and Hillary Clinton would be 'tough choice'

Sen. John McCainJohn McCainThe Hill's 12:30 Report State officials under pressure to OK ObamaCare premium hikes McCain's primary opponent takes shot at his age MORE (R-Ariz.) joked that it would be a tough decision to vote for Sen. Rand PaulRand PaulTrump, Clinton boost Snapchat spending Clinton enjoying edge over Trump in Silicon Valley Trump gets little backing from Silicon Valley MORE (R-Ky.) over Democrat Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonBannon's ex-wife: 'He didn’t want the girls going to school with Jews' Kasich: I don't know what we're hearing from Trump on immigration Clinton's State schedules won't be fully released until after election: AP 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. 

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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 RubioLatino Republicans split on Trump's outreach Illegal immigration foe: Trump shift the 'death knell of his candidacy' Analysis: Clinton speaks at higher grade level than Trump 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 CruzThe Trail 2016: On the fringe FULL SPEECH: Hillary Clinton links Trump to 'alt-right' in Reno Presidential hopefuls still bank on retail politics MORE (R-Texas) and Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashRepublican exodus from Trump grows Dozens of GOP lawmakers staying away from Trump's convention House uprising thwarts change to Patriot Act 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.

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