LOS ANGELES – At a Memorial Day ceremony in Mesa, Ariz., the crowd cheered for President George W. Bush. But their own U.S. Sen. John McCain? He was absent.
"John McCain was mentioned as not being in attendance, and the crowd booed," said state Sen. Scott Bundgard, R-Ariz.
Boos for their powerful U.S. senator, the man who got closer to the White House than any Arizonan since Barry Goldwater? It seems the state’s favorite son has fallen into disfavor with some of his constituents at home.
"So many disappointments, so close together," Bundgard explained.
Among those disappointments, GOP loyalists say, have been McCain’s co-sponsorship of a gun show bill with Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., his position on the Patients Bill of Rights and his vote against Bush’s tax cut.
After that latest move by McCain, phones at Arizona’s GOP headquarters started ringing off the hook, with the party faithful complaining that their senator was acting more like a Democrat these days.
"A lot of people wonder whether John McCain is the man we want representing Arizona in the U.S. Senate," said GOP activist Herb Morgan.
But state Rep. Deb Gullet, who worked for McCain for a decade, said that this sort of criticism has been directed at the outspoken political maverick for years.
"Ultra right-wing conservatives have been mad at John McCain since John McCain suggested that Evan Mecham, the impeached governor of our state, resign," said Gullet. "They just have never gotten over it."
And acting like a Democrat won’t necessarily hurt McCain in his home state. After all, Bill Clinton won there in the 1996 presidential elections, and Barry Goldwater was a popular political figure.
"Barry Goldwater was at odds with the right wing of the party in particular and the public here said, ‘Well, so what? We still like the guy,’" said Arizona pollster Earl Deberge – who pointed out that Goldwater was respected because he was thought to be honest and open. "I think McCain enjoys that same power."
Still, some at home are so unhappy with McCain's voting record that a recall drive has reportedly been launched against him.
Recall organizer Jerry Klingman, who accuses McCain of working with some of the most liberal and dishonest members of the Senate to propose unconstitutional and treasonous legislation, says he'll begin circulating petitions.
He needs more than 350,000 signatures by the first of October to force a recall election.
Gov. Jane Hull, meanwhile, says she has no interest in signing a recall petition, adding that McCain has been a good senator for Arizona.
And Arizonans have certainly proven that when it comes to politics, they love a maverick. Many of them are saying they’d just like their renegade senator to drop by more often and explain himself to the people who sent him to Washington in the first place.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.