Primary elections can be tough. Leaders who have been the voice of moderate policies often find themselves in trouble when facing extreme candidates from either the right or the left. Enter: John McCain.

The latest polls show that McCain will prevail over super right-wing challenger J.D. Hayworth in the Arizona Republican primary. To get such a substantial lead in the polls, “The Maverick” has done some unmavericky things. Mother Jones has pointed out that between the 2008 presidential election and his 2010 primary contest, McCain has bucked hard right on gun control, immigration, “don’t ask/don’t tell,” and climate change.

When it comes to climate change “The Maverick” has followed the lead of other immovable Republican objects like Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) by labeling any “cap-and-trade” legislation as “cap-and-tax.” While Ensign, Enzi and Inhofe have kept their views on climate change and cap-and-trade perfectly consistent throughout their time in the Senate, McCain is a different story.

“The Maverick,” as recently as his presidential run in 2008, described the need to address global warming as “urgent.” Way back in 2003 when Sarah Palin was given a seat on Alaska’s Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, “The Maverick” co-sponsored a cap-and-tax bill (which he then called a cap-and-trade bill), with friend and (then) Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman.   

But now that the magician — I mean, “The Maverick” — is about to trick Arizona voters into thinking that he is as red as Sarah Palin the Fox News commentator, the question for environmentalists will be, “Can we get McCain back?” The answer, of course, will all depend on how “The Maverick” reads the poll numbers going into the November elections.