WASHINGTON, 5:45 p.m. — Connecticut’s congressional delegation hosted a welcome event for visitors to the Capitol in the ornate Caucus room of the Russell Senate Office Building. In attendance was the entire delegation and leaders from throughout the state, including New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr.
PHOENIX, 3:05 p.m. — The Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa was inspired by the architect Frank Lloyd Wright, but you wouldn’t know it today.
Reporters have strewn themselves all over the posh resort, so much so that its geometric patterns are largely hidden. I counted more than three dozen satellite trucks and there are hundreds of cameras positioned everywhere imaginable.
We were told to park several miles away, at the North Phoenix Baptist Church, but few — if any — reporters did so. Instead, every parking space at the Biltmore is filled and some cars are parked on lawns. (I haven’t seen anyone parked on the golf course yet.)
PRESCOTT, Ariz., 1:08 a.m. — Senator John McCain is hoping to reverse what he calls one of Arizona’s “unhappy traditions.”
Speaking in front of the same courthouse steps here where Barry Goldwater launched and ended his 1964 bid for the presidency, McCain said he would reverse the tradition of Arizonans losing presidential elections.
“I’m confident because I’ve seen the momentum, my friends” he said in the earliest hours of Wednesday morning after completing a seven-state sprint across the country on Tuesday. “All we’ve got to do is get out the vote.”
PHOENIX, 9:15 p.m. — The Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport was something of a political battleground tonight.
Passengers on my US Airways flight didn’t even have to exit the jetway before they heard the rumble of political debate in the terminal. CNN was blaring with the sound of a McCain stump speech from earlier today.
As Senator John McCain roared on the television, “Mac is back,” passengers waiting in his home state’s largest airport drowned him out with boos and cheers, shouts of “Nobama” and screams of “Yes We Can.”
One Philadelphia-bound woman, who would only identify herself as Nicki, said she was ashamed to be from McCain’s home state.
“He’s not the same man we put in the Senate,” she said. “It’s time for change.”
DENVER, 11:14 a.m. — This may be the Democratic National Convention, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few Republican interlopers in town. And one of them has a message for Elis.
Former Hewlett-Packard chief Carly Fiorina (left), a senior aide to Senator John McCain, convened a press conference Monday with four supporters of Senator Hillary Clinton LAW ’73 who have recently thrown their support behind the presumptive Republican nominee.
And in an interview afterward, she said Elis should think about making the switch, too.
“I understand that Obama is an exciting and impressive figure. He certainly is,” Fiorina told the News. “He is a celebrity — there’s no question —and I understand how intoxicating that is to many people.”
But Fiorina, a Stanford and M.I.T. alumna, said Elis should be smart enough to look beyond that effect.
“Yale students in particular are taught to examine the facts and not let their emotions run away with them,” she said. “And I think the facts around his rhetoric versus his record are quite stark, and I think the facts around these two candidates’ service and track record is quite evident as well.”
As a kid, I loved boats. And planes. I mean, I was into this stuff. And the bigger the boats and planes, the better. I didn’t really realize it, but unlike the Power Rangers fixation, this fascination stuck with me. You can only imagine my excitement when we hopped out of the Crazy Carl cab in the parking lot of the U.S.S. Yorktown, site of the John McCain rally in Charleston, S.C. As boats go, this one’s wicked cool.
It was also the ideal site for a rally with a theme like McCain’s. With his POW background, militant political views, and reliance on the veteran vote in South Carolina, this rally couldn’t have been staged more appropriately. With Boy Scouts on one side, a contingent of Veterans on the other, and a really, really big helicopter behind the stage, McCain was about as military as can be.
While waiting for the crowd to assemble, I spoke to several interesting people in the audience, including a very shy elderly lady who only piped up when I mentioned to someone my excitement about being on the Yorktown. Apparently, her husband had brought the Yorktown into its dock in the ’70s, and she had opened the first gift shop at Patriot Point. She had mostly come just to see the festivities, and wasn’t terribly interested in what the speakers had to say.
I also spoke to a pair of middle-aged ladies, one of whom was a McCain supporter and the other undecided. We talked about a few issues, how they thought the race was going, why they supported the candidates, and eventually whether they planned to vote in their primary when it came around (they’re from Maryland, and so not voting in this weekend’s election). At this point, the undecided lady said she did, but couldn’t vote for McCain, as she was a registered Democrat and couldn’t support him in Maryland’s closed primary system. None of this seemed to be a big deal, and I was nodding politely along, until right after her comment about her party affiliation, her Republican friend exclaimed, “What?!” Apparently, in their 10-year friendship, the lady had never admitted to her Republican friend that she was a Democrat. I quickly apologized for “outing” her and made a journalistic excuse to scurry off into the crowd and leave them to their awkward explanations.
When the event got started, we heard from several dignitaries, including Senator Lindsey Graham, who spent a fairly sizable amount of time looking squeamish under McCain’s comments about him supporting Bush in 2000. During Graham’s introductory speech, an aide came to his side and whispered to him, at which point the senator introduced a last minute addition: Pete Hegseth from Vets for Freedom, an organization founded by veterans of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
This group’s main focus is to promote policy that supports the war, and in September 2007 came in front of Congress to beg them to support General Petraeus and the war effort. He spoke passionately about the need to elect John McCain, nodding often to the bleachers packed with veterans on the side of the stage.
After a short break (and some overplayed patriotic tunes), McCain and his entourage arrived, referred to as the “Straight Talk Express” by the organizers. The senator came in at a snail’s pace, shaking every hand extended to him and lapping up the cheers and applause from the crowd. When he made it to the stage, the captive audience was all but silent while he spoke and burst into chants of “John McCain! John McCain!” and “Mac is back! Mac is back!” whenever he stopped to breathe. He was accompanied by his wife, Cindy and his 23-year-old daughter, Meghan, a recent Columbia graduate.
He spoke in his typically blunt manner about issues ranging from VA health care to the war, seeming to tailor the issues he chose to his audience. He didn’t change his stance on issues, but he seemed to emphasize certain issues much more than he would when speaking in a different geographic and demographic area.
When he finished, he made his way over to the Boy Scouts and posed for a picture with them, then slowly made his way back out, shaking hands and posing for pictures as he went.
We managed to catch up with him as he was getting back on the Straight Talk Express, where he gave us about 4 seconds each. After watching him blow off questions from members of the press that were way more prominent than we were, we decided that we’d rather skip the long shot of throwing a question his way, hoping for a response, and went instead for the handshake. I guess politicians shake enough hands that they know how to do it right. A firm grip, a couple pumps, a smile that says “Thanks for coming,” and even though I was his focus for 4 seconds, he made those 4 seconds seem like I was the only person that had come to see him.
Until the fifth second when he strode off, I stood there looking like I’d just been hit by the Straight Talk Express.
NEW HAVEN, 12 a.m. — The Republican field moved one step close to completely gonzo this evening as former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney plowed his way to a victory in the Michigan GOP primary. Romney upped over McCain 38 to 31 percent in the fourth such nominating contest on the Republican side of the ticket; Romney also won the relatively unimportant Wyoming GOP caucuses on January 5. The victory sets up a three, four, or five-man race for the nomination, depending on which pundits and campaign organizers you listen to. Undisputed is the fact that Romney needed a win here tonight; a loss in the state where his father successfully governed from 1963 to 1969 would have sealed the fate of the younger Romney’s 2008 Presidential bid.
he Democratic ballot, on the other hand, was notable for its lack of names. Michiganders had the opportunity to vote for New York Senator Hillary Clinton, Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd, or Ohio Representative Dennis Kucinich. Oh — and an illustrious candidate named “Uncommitted.” After learning that the National Democratic Party would penalize the state’s early primary move by stripping Michigan of delegates, Senators Barack Obama of Illinois and former North Carolina Senator John Edwards wrote off the state’s contest, choosing instead to focus their resources on South Carolina and Nevada. Results in the Palmetto State next week could hold the fate of Edwards lagging second campaign for the presidency and a victory in Nevada would give the Obama campaign a new head of steam after its New Hampshire hiccup.
With the results in, Michigan voters chose Clinton over Uncommitted by a comfortable margin of 56 to 39 percent, heading off a potentially nasty embarrassment for the former First Lady. Although he bowed out of the race after Iowa, Dodd no doubt appreciates the show of support from a few, devoted core of Michiganders — 3.417 Democrats sent their ballots his way last night, enough to garner him 1 percent of the vote.
JERSEY CITY, N.J., 3:45 p.m. — While waiting on this endless press line I chatted with Charles Hannon, a Jersey City resident who was stationed in the South Pacific with the U.S. Navy during World War II (and later attended school in New Haven). Sixty years later he is calling himself a “veteran for Obama”
Why? Besides Obama’s support for G.I.s, Hannon says the country is “going down the tubes” and Obama is the “new-blood” candidate who can put America “on top” again, as it was in the late 1940s.
As an interesting side note, Hannon says he also likes John McCain — and would like to see the Arizona senator run in a general election with Obama.
The fifth in a series of spin room interviews following this weekend’s debates.
MANCHESTER, N.H., 3:01 a.m. — In his campaigning, Barack Obama worked hard to attract independent voters, hoping to charm them into coming out and supporting him at the caucuses. Then, last Thursday came, and the independents heeded Obama’s message. Voter turnout spiked, and Obama won in a landslide victory.
David Axelrod, Obama’s chief strategist, looked brilliant. But will the same strategy work today in New Hampshire, where Senator John McCain has historically been the darling of many Granite State independents?
Axelrod thinks so.
“From what we seen, this is not like 2000,” he told reporters this weekend. “I don’t think that independents in New Hampshire are all that eager to vote in the Republican primary. I don’t think that’s how they think they’re going to get the biggest change here.” (more…)
SALEM, N.H., 11:30 a.m. — Jack Neal said he doesn’t mind all the cars parked in front of his house here in a middle-class neighborhood near the Woodbury School, a local middle school.
Neal, 61, said he was glad they had come. The crowds were there to watch Senator John McCain speak at a town hall meeting on Sunday afternoon. And Neal, a Republican, said he hopes they will vote for McCain, too.
He will, for one thing.
“I’m a veteran, and he served in the military,” Neal said. “I just like him.”
Neal said he made up his mind about McCain in the last few weeks — echoing a trend among New Hampshire Republicans, according to recent polls.
And at the town hall meeting, which was filled to capacity, it was no wonder why a man like Neal, who served in the Army from 1968 to 1970, might like McCain. (more…)
The second in a series of spin room interviews following this weekend’s debates.
MANCHESTER, N.H., 10:30 a.m. — Senator John McCain is surging, and his campaign is feeling good.
“We like where it stands, and it feels even better right now than it did in 2000,” said McCain chief media strategist and Bush advertising czar Mark McKinnon (pictured) after the Republican debate Saturday night. “It looks like lightning is striking twice.”
For the McCain campaign, the goal is either a win or to finish “close” to the winner, McKinnon said.
WASHINGTON, 8:35 p.m. — A new CNN-WMUR poll released this evening shows Senator Barack Obama with a commanding 10-point lead over Senator Hillary Clinton LAW ’73 among likely Democratic primary voters two days before Granite State voters cast their ballots.
The poll, conducted Saturday and today, suggests Obama may be capitalizing on the momentum from his victory in Thursday’s Iowa caucus, in which he defeated the third-place Clinton by eight points. A similar CNN-WMUR tracking poll released yesterday showed Obama and Clinton knotted at 33 percent a piece, with former Senator John Edwards in third, at 20 percent. Today’s poll places Obama at 39 percent, Clinton at 29 percent and Edwards at 16 percent.