August 6, 2006


(ONE of US): John McCain may be the last man in America who most Americans listen to. But has he run out of time to become president? (Chris Jones, October 2006, Esquire)

There is something almost rhythmic in watching him when he gets on a roll on the road like this, a steady beat that begins to feel driving. He can feel it, too. You can see that he can. You can see that he loves this, loves the attention, loves the kind words, loves the look that the people give him when he's worked his way through to them. These are not rich folks who have been soaked through waiting for him, and they are not powerful. But they are the sort who take care of their friends, holding up signs that say OUR JOE BRUNO, and in ten minutes McCain has made himself one of them. Even in the rain there is warmth.

He is smiling when he slips back into the car, having been followed the entire way by a deep, adoring mob. Out of sight, he finds a bottle of hand sanitizer, a must-have on the campaign trail. He waves his clean mitts through the window while his car eases out of the crowd and onto the road, on its way to the airport, its passenger on his way to Dela¬ware, where he will do it all over again.

There, he will stand near Dewey Beach, washed clean by the ocean, under blue skies instead of gray, and he will appear beside that state's lone congressman, Mike Castle, who is the chairman of the Republican Main Street Partnership, a collection of the party's moderates. There, Castle will welcome McCain at the Georgetown airport, the way John Sweeney did in White Plains, and the two men will share secrets in the backseat of a black sedan. And there, McCain will hear Castle—the same Mike Castle who wrote the bill to lift the limits on stem-cell research, pro-choice Mike Castle—suggest that he will endorse him in his run for the White House:

"You take a walk in Washington with ninety-five of this country's senators, and nobody would have any idea who they were. Everybody knows who he is. I admire his forthrightness. Some people, you won¬der whether they're ideologically driven, whether they're saying what they're saying because they're Right or Left. But he's not like that. When he says something, you're almost always inclined to believe him and to believe that he's correct. I think that makes him very electable. I think there will be other good and viable candidates, but I'm not sure any of them are as qualified to run for president of the United States, and I'm not sure any of them can answer the question of whether they can win against someone like Hillary Clinton."

There it will be again. Not the foreshadowing of elections to come or yet another accounting of the stakes. No, it'll be the same pledge of support that McCain has just re¬ceived from hard-right John Sweeney and from old-school Joe Bruno, this time from moderate Mike Castle.

The plane is waiting for him. "How ya doin', honey?" McCain says, using the drive to the airport in Albany to call up Cindy again. She tells him about her visit to Annapolis to see their son Jack, one of his seven children by his two wives, and who, like his father, his grandfather, and his great-grandfather, is enrolled at the Naval Academy. Unlike his father, who finished fifth from the bottom of his class, Jack is doing well in school, keeping out of trouble, and looking good in his white uniform. "Was it beautiful?" McCain asks, and Cindy answers yes, it was, and he is even happier now, down¬right springy. "I don't know what's wrong with that kid," he says after hanging up. "He didn't get a single demerit."

McCain climbs on board with Weaver, who is his own version of buoyant. "That was huge for us," he says of Bruno's show of support.

"Yeah, that was great," McCain says. "We won't have to sue to get on the ballot this time around."

Upstate New York, beachside Delaware, the rain and the sun, the conservatives and the moderates, and by nightfall—when he'll be back in his Crystal City, Virginia, apartment and drop into bed—all of it will feel as though it's McCain's to win or lose, the end of another long day, and the start of everything coming together.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 6, 2006 1:28 PM

Barf bag alert!

Posted by: erp at August 6, 2006 3:33 PM

Sucrosely fawning, yes. But I like Capt. Queeg, myself. It's also cool to have Rudy as an option.

Posted by: ghostcat at August 6, 2006 6:19 PM