A multi-term Republican senator from Arizona, John McCain netted broadest public awareness via his successful bid for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination -- and subsequent presidential candidacy. Born in the Panama Canal Zone in 1936 and raised in northern Virginia, he ultimately attended the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis and spent several decades in the United States Navy. The post carried him to Vietnam, where he fell prey to the North Vietnamese as a POW and suffered from intense, traumatic experiences at the hands of his captors (including physical torture). McCain retired from the USN in 1981, but in the meantime served as a Navy liaison to the Senate, and in 1986 won the election to the post of Arizona senator -- a position held through the 2008 election. As a presidential candidate, his espoused opinions were fairly indicative of the Republican cause, including full-throttled support of the controversial Iraq War.
Unlike his democratic opponents, McCain seemed inherently willing to toy with his own image; in fact, he hosted Saturday Night Live before and during his campaign and participated in a number of SNL sketches -- inevitably recalling Nixon's "sock it to me" contributions to Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, decades prior. His acting resumé also includes a cameo appearance in the popular 2005 farce Wedding Crashers. Like his opponent in the 2008 presidential campaign, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, McCain participated as an interviewee in the social-awareness documentary Darfur Now (2007).