It seems strange to discuss now, as the McCain campaign declares war on the “elite liberal media” and as the press swoons over a new darling, but there was a time not too long ago when John McCain called that same media establishment “my base.” They just called him “John.”
Jill Zuckman, campaign correspondent for the Chicago Tribune, is one of the few media veterans from McCain’s 2000 campaign. She remembers riding with the candidate around New Hampshire in his trademark Straight Talk Express when the Arizona senator had no more name recognition than Orrin Hatch, Lamar Alexander or any of the other also-rans who challenged frontrunner George W. Bush for the Republican nomination.
The Sun: You’ve been one of Senator McCain’s staunchest supporters from the beginning, through thick and thin. A few weeks before Election Day, can you give us some perspective on everything that’s happened to this point?
This is an updated version of an article that originally was printed on Oct. 19
“For all intents and purposes, McCain’s campaign is over. The physicians have pulled up the sheet, the executors of the estate are taking over. Paying bills and winding down—not strategizing, organizing, and getting the message out—will be the order of the day.”
Thus spake Charlie Cook, veteran political prophet and publisher of the widely read Cook Report. It’s a common sentiment among political observers two weeks before Election Day, as Barack Obama increasingly projects an aura of inevitability while John McCain increasingly channels Bob Dole.
Ben Birnbaum ’08 has been traveling on the McCain campaign trail for the past several months. He has spoken with several politicians, both Democrats and Republicans, and recently sat down with Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-Minn.) and Gov. Bill Richardson (D-N.M.).
The Sun: As an early supporter of John McCain, what was your reaction when his campaign imploded in the summer of 2007?
Watching the third and final presidential debate from the Media room at Hofstra University was like being in a gym lined with dozens of rows of tables spanning the length of the room, each equipped with several phones, extension cords, and high-definition televisions.
In the hours leading up to the main event, politicians and media members milled about — eating, schmoozing, and sporting their souvenir Hofstra mugs. As Bob Schieffer took the stage and said a few words to the audience — “welcome all, turn off your cell phones and shut up during the debate” — the media members scurried to their seats and began typing away.
The reaction in the room was fairly muted until the fifteenth shout-out to “Joe the plumber,” which drew a chorus of hearty laughter.