BAXTER -- The straight-talking, wise-cracking candidate people see on television is the same John McCain that Baxter attorney John S. Raboin remembers from his intern days on Capitol Hill.
As a third-year law student from Arizona State University, Raboin spent the 1988-89 school year working in the Arizona Republican's Senate office. From day one, Raboin, an Air Force Academy graduate, was an immediate target for the Senator's good-natured barbs. McCain, an Annapolis graduate and 22-year Navy veteran, rarely let an opportunity pass to note the Navy's superiority over the Air Force.
The jokes didn't end with the internship. Two years after he left McCain's office and was practicing law in Florida, Raboin approached the senator in Orlando and re-introduced himself to the politician.
"How could I forget an incompetent like you?" McCain quickly responded, recognizing the foil for his Air Force jokes.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., (left) who has been the big surprise of the Republican presidential field this campaign season, is pictured with Baxter attorney John Raboin during Raboin's 1988-89 internship.
Although Raboin's own political interests led him to Minnesota's Independence Party and later the Reform Party, he plans to attend a Republican caucus this year in order to support McCain.
"He really is more honest than your average politician," Raboin said.
McCain was shot down over Vietnam and spent 5 1/2 years as a North Vietnamese prisoner. The attorney noted that McCain turned down a chance to be released from his North Vietnamese prison early when he thought that he was being shown favoritism because his father was a high-ranking U.S. Navy officer.
"He did the honorable thing," Raboin said. Such an action is evidence for Raboin that McCain would make honorable decisions as president.
Sen. McCain, 63, pushed hard for the U.S. to recognize Vietnam, even though many veterans' groups opposed that position.
"People don't take political risks like that," Raboin said of most politicians.
Raboin admits he was by no means a high-ranking aide to the busy senator. He estimates he probably saw McCain between 15 to 20 times.
Despite McCain's impressive primary victories, Raboin realizes that defeating the favorite, George W. Bush, will be difficult. Raboin figures his candidate has about a 40 to 45 percent chance of winning the nomination. At the outset of the campaign Raboin figured McCain only had a 10 percent chance of winning.
"If he pulls in California (the March 7 primary) it might go down to the convention," Raboin said.
Two things Raboin does not expect to see this political year is McCain accepting the vice presidential slot on a ticket or becoming an independent candidate.
"He never would jump ship," Raboin said.
While working for McCain, he never saw any inappropriate fits of temper, a trait that some media reports have said the senator sometimes exhibits.
On the contrary, McCain showed Raboin persuasive people skills that would serve him well in the White House.
"He's very charismatic," he said. "He's very smooth."
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