Elisabeth Bumiller does us all the service of focusing some attention on McCain’s flirtations with becoming a Democrat, first in 2001 when considering switching parties to flip control of the Senate, and then in 2004 when considering running as VP on John Kerry’s ticket. McCain naturally decided to sweep all this under the rug when he decided to hug Bush and start positioning himself to run as a Republican in 2008 but his staff was taking this stuff seriously by most accounts.
I think it’s pretty clear that McCain’s been less-than-totally honest about this stuff, but beyond that, what’s the point? I’m not really sure what the point is, myself. On the one hand, to some extent it highlights McCain’s unseriousness about the bulk of domestic policy issues that he’s drifted around so much on those topics and was willing to consider basically jettisoning his entire record. But at the end of the day, he didn’t do it and (especially in 2001) domestic issues were presumably at the center of that. He really does have a conservative record and a conservative self-conception, and wanted to stick with that.