Sen. John McCain avoided reporters during the lame-duck session of Congress last week. But Tuesday, shortly after President-elect Obama had his own news conference about the economy, McCain broke his silence by speaking with reporters in Phoenix.
This came after the two former contenders met last week, and Tuesday, McCain continued to make nice. When asked what advice he had for right-wing supporters who say the prospect of an Obama presidency terrifies them, he was categorical.
"Respect this landmark election, respect the fact America faces great challenges, and Americans expect us to work together. That does not mean we won't have differences," McCain said.
McCain said he approved of many of the president-elect's choices for his economic team; he called them well-respected and people he could work with. He also said he plans to make immigration reform, which he rarely mentioned while campaigning, a priority.
"I intend to discuss that with the president-elect," he said. Though the current focus is on the economy, McCain said, "I still am committed to comprehensive immigration reform."
Looking back at his failed bid for the White House, McCain said he was extremely proud to have had Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate.
"I think we look back with pride at the campaign we ran and accept very much that the people have made a decision. So the decision I'm basically making is to be able to continue to serve the state of Arizona and my country, and obviously that would mean in a couple of years asking for them to send me back, and I would expect a very tough race," he said.
Asked whether he might also try another presidential run, McCain stopped short of saying never again, saying "I do not envision a scenario that would entail that."
McCain returns to his day job as a U.S. senator with what many colleagues say is greater clout.
"He is our most prominent senator, without a question. He is very popular in our conference. We all think that he did a fabulous job under very, very difficult circumstances. To carry 46 percent of the vote in the wake of the president's unpopularity and the economic uncertainty was quite significant," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut independent who incurred the wrath of many of the Democrats he caucuses with by campaigning for McCain, says he now sees the Arizona senator beginning a new chapter.
"John's a very effective senator, and I think he comes back with renewed stature and a real willingness and eagerness to work across party lines to get things done," Lieberman said.
But Alabama Republican Jeff Sessions says he fears that McCain might be too willing and eager to work across party lines. "I hope he would not take the view that he could just partner with the Democrats and provide the extra votes to pass whatever they want. Hopefully, that won't happen," Sessions said.
Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a close McCain ally, says McCain will be what he's long been — a maverick.
"I think John will be John. ... Issues important to John, he pursues in a bipartisan fashion. He's a solid conservative, he has a very strong conservative voting record, social and economically, but he also has the ability to be a dealmaker. I think he'll do both," Graham said.
California Democrat Dianne Feinstein also doesn't expect any big changes in the former candidate. The Senate, she says, is a strange place — you come back to it pretty much as you left it.
"This body I think doesn't really have stars in its eyes. This body works from day to day, does its work. We are a body of equals in that sense, and I think once the campaign is over, it's over," Feinstein said.