January 7, 2008

HEADS, HE WINS:

Retracing Steps, McCain Is Feeling Rejuvenated (ADAM NAGOURNEY and MARC SANTORA, 1/07/08, NY Times)

Senator John McCain’s presidential campaign wheeled out a confetti gun on Saturday in Peterborough to boom a festive end to his 100th town-hall-style meeting. It was the same place he began his New Hampshire primary campaign of 2000.

Mr. McCain, a Republican, is methodically returning in these last days before the New Hampshire primary to the same venues he visited in that campaign, in which he defeated George W. Bush by 18 percentage points. He is surrounded by many of the same New Hampshire aides, telling many of the same jokes, appealing to the same voters and promising what seems like unlimited access to the state’s residents and reporters.

“It’s superstition,” Mr. McCain said Sunday. “And a bit of nostalgia.” [...]

[H]e seems to be enjoying this campaign just as much as the last one: the nonstop attention from voters and journalists, the continued conversations and probing and traveling.

Mike Murphy, a friend and close adviser to his last campaign, showed up this weekend and the two men were before long loudly exchanging stories — “tell about the time” Mr. McCain would start — in the back of the bus.

Out of money after the near meltdown of his campaign last summer, collapsing in the polls and forced to lay off most of his staff, Mr. McCain went back to New Hampshire, to do what worked for him last time in a state that has already viewed him with affection: a poll by CNN and WMUR released Sunday found that 80 percent of Republicans and 62 percent of Democrats said they had a favorable view of him.

Like last time, he is riding the Straight Talk Express, his traveling press conference of a bus, beginning his sentences with “I’m going to give you a little straight talk” and entertaining his audiences with self-deprecatory asides, delivered with a double-arch of the eyebrows.

As of Sunday, he had held 102 town-hall-style meetings, compared with 114 in 2000. He was going back to the same places, telling the same jokes — “We have so little water in Arizona that the trees chase the dogs,” he says — and using the same props to work the crowd, like the confetti gun.

There was never any question that reporters would be given free access to him on his bus. And there was never any question that he would pay visits to the same newspaper editorial boards that endorsed him last time. It is also why he is planning to end his campaign on Monday night with a rally in Portsmouth, the same place he ended his 2000 campaign.

“I found a nickel on the ground here with its head up, and I kept it,” he said. “With the head up, not the tail up.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 7, 2008 12:30 PM
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