|WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF
John McCain once had the most powerful brand in American politics.
He was often called the country's most popular politician and widely admired for his independent streak. It wasn't too many years ago that "maverick" was the cliche of choice in describing him.
But that term didn't even make the list this year when voters were asked by the Pew Research Center to sum up McCain in a single word. "Old" got the most mentions, followed by "honest," "experienced," "patriot," "conservative" and a dozen more. The words "independent," "change" or "reformer" weren't among them.
Voters have notoriously short memories, but it could be argued that McCain cheapened his own brand.