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

Sen. John McCainJohn McCainMcCain granddaughter comes out in support of Clinton With reservations, moving toward Hillary Clinton FULL SPEECH: Hillary Clinton closes out Democratic convention MORE (R-Ariz.) joked that it would be a tough decision to vote for Sen. Rand PaulRand PaulGreen party candidate: People have 'real questions' about vaccines What to watch for on Day 2 at the GOP convention Cyber squatters sitting on valuable VP web addresses MORE (R-Ky.) over Democrat Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonTrump: Muslim soldier was a hero but his father 'has no right' to criticize me Interim DNC chair to impose 'tough standards' after email leaks Mark Cuban campaigns for Clinton in hometown of Pittsburgh 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 RubioFlorida: 'High likelihood' of first Zika transmission in the US Overnight Healthcare: Rubio presses Obama to spend Zika money | FDA moves ahead with trans fat ban The Trail 2016: Her big night 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 CruzHot air balloon crash kills 16 in Texas 100 days to go in volatile race Voting Trump because of the Supreme Court isn't enough MORE (R-Texas) and Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashDozens of GOP lawmakers staying away from Trump's convention House uprising thwarts change to Patriot Act GOP angst grows over Trump 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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