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GOP Senators Reassess Views About McCain

Nevertheless, many House Republicans now view McCain as the best possible nominee. Despite the senator's heresies on taxes, immigration and campaign finance, Rep. Tom Cole (Okla.), chairman of the Republican campaign committee, said McCain could appeal to independent voters.

"You'll have more Democrats running away from Hillary Clinton than you'll have Republicans running away from our nominee," he said.

In his first run for the presidency in 2000, McCain's temperament became an issue as campaign aides to George W. Bush questioned whether the senator was a suitable occupant for the Oval Office. Only a few of McCain's Senate colleagues endorsed him then.

But the past few years have seen fewer McCain outbursts, prompting some senators and aides to suggest privately that he is working to control his temper. This time, 13 senators have endorsed his presidential bid, more than for any other candidate, Democrat or Republican.

"We all get a little bit mellower," Salter said. "But he doesn't get up every morning saying, 'I must control my temper.' "

Last spring, however, McCain's confrontational side reappeared during a closed-door meeting of senators from both parties. After spending six weeks away from the Senate, he showed up for final negotiations on a fragile immigration bill, leading Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) to question where he had been. McCain responded by swearing at Cornyn loudly and repeatedly, according to witnesses.

Cornyn, who has not endorsed a presidential candidate, doesn't expect to befriend McCain anytime soon but said he will happily stump for him as the nominee.

"We've had our moments, but we've gotten over that and moved on down the road," Cornyn said. "You're talking about people who are professionals. You don't have to link arms and sing 'Kumbaya' to get things done."

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