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

Sen. John McCainJohn McCainMissouri Republican: Trump has not earned my vote Stoddard: Can Trump close the deal with the GOP? John Boehner to attend GOP convention MORE (R-Ariz.) joked that it would be a tough decision to vote for Sen. Rand PaulRand PaulThird-party push gaining steam Activists target Google employees over GOP convention plans McConnell pledges to support Trump MORE (R-Ky.) over Democrat Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonGloria Steinem: If Clinton doesn't win it's because majority didn't vote Protesters greet Clinton at Calif. rally Sanders: 'You can’t keep track’ of the wars GOP would start 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 RubioTrump lands Calif. lawmaker endorsement Trump: Rubio as VP 'could happen' The Trail 2016: GOP stages of grief 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 CruzRyan fans GOP civil war over Donald Trump Rick Perry backs Trump, open to VP spot Missouri Republican: Trump has not earned my vote MORE (R-Texas) and Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashRepublicans who vow to never back Trump Trump Capitol Hill surrogate says Cruz should drop out Lawmakers react to Villanova's buzzer-beater NCAA win 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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