Changing Faces: John McCain and Charlie Crist Transformed In Senate Races

Voters across the political spectrum are frustrated with the economy and fed up with Washington and Congress, a situation that has led to an unprecedented level of political transformation this midterm election cycle.

Tuesday's primaries in Arizona and Florida showcase the situation and give case studies in two very different ways to deal with tough primary -- If you can't join them, leave them.

Arizona's contest is notable for the dramatic transformation of Sen. John McCain, who in years past worked across the aisle on issues like climate change legislation and comprehensive immigration reform, but after his bruising loss in the 2008 Presidential election, has taken a harder line and sided more frequently with rank and file Republicans.

Video: Washington Post Chris Cillizza on "Top Line."
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Meanwhile in Florida, Republican Governor Charlie Crist wants to be a Senator, but it became clear he was too moderate for Republicans in the state after he embraced president Obama's economic stimulus plan in early 2009. A challenge from the right seemed sure to upend Crist's ambitions. So he left the Republican party altogether. He won't be on the ballot in any primary when party voters in Florida select their candidates Tuesday.

The transformations have so far paid off for both men. In Arizona, McCain is now the clear frontrunner in the primary after spending $20 million. In Florida, a Quinnipiac University poll showed Crist leading both Republican former state House Speaker Marco Rubio and the two Democrats vying for a spot on the ballot in November – Rep. Kendrick Meek and billionaire Jeff Greene.

Video of Senator John McCain on the Subway Series with Jonathan Karl.
Subway Series: Senator John McCain on Health Care, Bunning

ABC's Jonathan Karl asked McCain about the perception that he was changing his positions for the primary back in March.

"What happened to the old John McCain? The John McCain that worked with Democrats, that reached across party lines, you know, was a thorn in the side of his own party, what happened?" Karl asked.

"Funny thing – I heard that in the Presidential campaign, too," McCain said. "Then I heard it in the primary. Who was the old John McCain? The old John McCain and the present John McCain, I fight for what I believe in. I'm a fighter. I enjoy it."

Watch that interview here.

VIDEO of Crist vowing to keep pressure on BP, do all it takes to keep beaches pristine
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McCain, Crist Take Opposite Approaches in Senate Primaries

McCain's evolving positions on some issues are hard to deny.

Take immigration. In 2008, in the heat of the presidential campaign, McCain told Univision that his plan for the Mexican border did not include "fences and walls," but facing a tough Republican primary challenge from former Rep. J.D. Hayworth, McCain cut a television ad in which he walked along a remote border fence with an Arizona sheriff and said, "Complete the dang fence."

Video of Senator John McCain on Senate floor defending Arizona immigration law.
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McCain had cosponsored comprehensive immigration reform legislation with Sen. Ted Kennedy in years past, but now argues that the borders must be better secured before a more comprehensive solution can be pursued. He was one of a handful of Republicans to vote with most Democrats in favor of comprehensive immigration reform legislation supported by President Bush in 2005 and 2006.

Immigration is not the only area where McCain's position has gone from independence to the Republican party line. He supported a "cap and trade" system for dealing with climate change as recently as 2008, when he told ABC's George Stephanopoulos that it would stimulate a green economy.

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