McCain’s Nostalgia for Victory and Relevance Tour

I think the press is misreading McCain’s plan to finish his campaign in Prescott, AZ on Monday, suggesting it’s part of Obama’s success at "forcing" McCain to campaign in Arizona. Sure, the tight race in Arizona has forced McCain to buy some robocalls. But the visit to Prescott–not exactly a center of population–is not likely to affect the results in Arizona. Rather, it’s partly McCain’s superstitious habit, and partly a concession by McCain that he’s not going to win and therefore he can spend the final days of the campaign making symbolic gestures.

Consider McCain’s travel plans:

Sen. John McCain will finish nearly two years of campaigning at an emotionally significant place — Prescott, Ariz., where one of his role models, Barry Goldwater, began and ended his own presidential campaign.

The next morning, he plans to vote in Phoenix, see a movie — an Election Day tradition — and await the results.


Sen. McCain campaigns in Virginia and Pennsylvania on Saturday before ending the day with an appearance on "Saturday Night Live." On Sunday, he returns to New Hampshire, where he won big in the 2000 Republican primary and staged a remarkable comeback to win again there in this year’s primary. It will be his final town hall meeting. He winds up at a late-night rally in Miami.

On the final day of the campaign, Monday, Sen. McCain will make his way across the country — from Florida, to Virginia, Pennsylvania, Indiana, New Mexico and Nevada before finishing in Prescott.

He was last there in April, at the conclusion of a biographical tour of places that were formative in his life.

"Prescott, Arizona’s territorial capital, occupies a special place in the history of Arizona, and in the Goldwater legend," he said that day. "As everyone familiar with Arizona politics knows, Prescott is where Barry Goldwater formally began his Senate campaigns and his campaign for the presidency on the steps of the Yavapai County Courthouse. As his successor and in deference to his tradition, I have ended all my Senate campaigns here."

The Ohio trip yesterday made sense–it is one of the several states he needs to win, and one he actually might have a shot at (though, as with Georgia, North Carolina, Colorado, New Mexico, and Iowa, enough people have already voted that late visits may have limited value). Virginia and Pennsylvania today? Miami tomorrow? A frenzied rush through Virginia, Pennsylvania, Indiana, New Mexico, and Nevada on Monday? All of those are states that McCain needs to win (though polls show some of them to be increasingly out of reach). 

But note that McCain is doing one last town hall in New Hamptshire, the state that gave him two critical primary wins–after he has not done a town hall since his last one, on October 10, revealed the ugly racism his campaign’s attacks on Obama have unleashed. Obama’s currently got an 11-point lead in New Hampshire–the worst polling of any of the states he will visit between now and Tuesday. So it’s not like McCain’s visit is likely to win the state.

Now, to some degree, both the New Hampshire stop and the Prescott stop reflect McCain’s celebrated superstition. He’s gotta go where he always goes (Prescott) and where he has won (New Hampshire) because they might make him lucky this time around. And Obama’s just as much a fan of schmaltzy symbolism, from his announcement in front of the Old State Capitol in Springfield, IL (where Lincoln announced), and his speech in front of the Victory Column in Berlin. 

But Obama’s announced campaign spots all make sense electorally–all of them: Henderson, NV, Pueblo, CO, Springfield, MO today; Columbus, Cleveland, and Cincinnati, OH tomorrow; Jacksonville, FL, Charlotte, NC, and Manassas, VA on Monday. (Yeah, I realize he’s not in Arizona, bmaz.)

I would suggest McCain’s decision to make the sentimental stop in New Hampshire, as much as the stop in Prescott, suggests McCain knows any stumping he does this weekend will do little good. Instead, he’s going to relive his glory days of surprise wins in New Hampshire; he’s going to try to elevate this losing bid in hopes it might some day have the same relevance as Goldwater’s 1964 presidential bid. McCain’s campaign stops this weekend are about McCain and his ego, not about mobilizing Republicans to go to the polls.

42 replies
    • Ishmael says:

      I wonder if at McCain’s election night wake at the Phoenix Biltmore hospitality suite, we get a replay of Nixon’s 1962 speech after his loss in the California gubernatorial election – “You won’t have John McCain to kick around anymore, you little jerks!” Perhaps it will be more like MacArthur, and old POWs just fading away, but I don’t see McCain being gracious.

  1. Ishmael says:

    Superstition is the corollary of the reckless gambler streak in McCain that has surfaced in the campaign over time – going to NH and Prescott, Arizona are like bringing his lucky shirt to the craps table.

  2. scribe says:

    So, McSame is betting on his superstition and doing all the superstitious rituals.

    Mr. Craps.

    Who’s blowing on this loser’s dice?

  3. Loo Hoo. says:

    I wonder how the Democratic Senators will welcome him back in the Senate after his horribly dishonest campaign.

    Great analysis of his final days on the losing campaign trail.

    • Teddy Partridge says:

      I predict a standing ovation, just like RGJoe got. That’s a workplace with no shame whatsoever.

  4. oregondave says:

    Gotta underscore the points Ishmael and scribe make: these are the things a compulsive gambler does. Not a “sentimental” stop in New Hampshire — a compelled one.

    • PJEvans says:

      That was my thought also: ‘It worked before, so I’ll do it again.’
      I wonder if he’ll learn anything from losing.

  5. Teddy Partridge says:

    As part of the Goldwater tradition McCain has so brazenly co-opted, will Barry Goldwater’s granddaughters be joining him in Prescott?

    Oh, wait — they’ve endorsed Barack Obama. Sorry, flyboy.

  6. randiego says:

    Superstition is the corollary of the reckless gambler streak in McCain that has surfaced in the campaign over time – going to NH and Prescott, Arizona are like bringing his lucky shirt to the craps table.

    It really is striking – you’d think he would recognize that his pathology is showing…

    • gryphon says:

      the whole point of pathology is you are the last one to recognize your own.

      (/turns cap backwards and gets lucky underwear ready for tuesday)

        • freepatriot says:

          I just want cheney to die in a cell, I don’t care how long it takes

          it adds a nice “Final Statement” for history

          slobodon milosivic ???

          died in a cell while serving a sentence for crimes against humanity

          no doubt about history’s verdict there

          you don’t come back from something like that

          although, I do remember that back in the early 1990s, one of the former soviet republics in central asian was trying to rehabilitate the reputation of Tamer the Lame, so the new nation could use him as a “george washington” type historical nation founder

          I just report em, I don’t espalin em, some times I don’t even understand em

  7. tryggth says:

    I’m pretty sure that after Tuesday we will learn that at this point in time (and probably marked by the ‘diva’ and ‘whack job’ remarks) MacCain and Palin staff have completely split with each other. Palin has about 72 hours of time in the sun. McCain and his loyalist will make sure she never sees daylight again after Tuesday (out of spite, and the battle for the future of the Repub party).

    What I find amazing is that the jokers over at NRO don’t see what is going on right in front of their faces within their own camp.

  8. tryggth says:

    And the reason I say that is this recent NYT article:

    Yet at another rally in Polk City, Mr. McCain’s name was conspicuously absent from the hundreds of signs handed out by the campaign and waved by the crowd. Instead of “McCain-Palin,” they read only “Country First” or “Florida is Palin Country.

    These signs are made by the campaign.

  9. Neil says:

    Where in NH is John’s town hall meeting? I’d like to ask him a two-part question:

    If Obama had accepted your offer to do town hall style debates around the country, would you still have chosen Palin, and would your campaign have been less dishonorable?

    • BayStateLibrul says:


      McCain and fucking Schilling will be in Peterborough NH, according
      to the Repug’s Union Leader.

      Peterborough – Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling will join John McCain for what the campaign is calling his “Final New Hampshire Straight Talk Town Hall” on Sunday.

      The campaign has confirmed that the McCain event will be held at the Peterborough Town Hall, 1 Grove St., with doors opening at 4:30 p.m.

      Tickets are not required, but the campaign advises attendees to arrive early because “seating is limited.”

      The venue’s capacity is about 800 people, according to a town official contacted by

  10. CasualObserver says:

    It will be important to assist the ACLU in getting Obama to respond positively to this initiative. Obama did not respond well to the FISA debacle. Here is another test for the constitutional specialist, and one that can be monitored and assessed as soon as his administration begins.

    ACLU Releases Presidential Transition Plan to Restore Civil Liberties
    Plan Offers Guide to Recovering Freedoms Lost Under Bush

    WASHINGTON – October 27 – In anticipation of the presidential election, the American Civil Liberties Union today released a set of detailed recommendations on steps that the new president should take to “clean house,” renew freedom, and restore the nation’s reputation.

    “This past administration has left us with a disastrous legacy of bad policy, abuse of power, and civil liberties violations,” said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the Washington Legislative Office of the ACLU. “The next president, whoever he is, must immediately begin the process of undoing this far-reaching assault on our nation’s freedoms and core values, and the ACLU’s ‘to do’ list provides a detailed roadmap for achieving that.”

    The new ACLU document, entitled, “Actions For Restoring America,” recommends actions to be taken by the next president on his first day in office, in his first 100 days, and in his first year. The ACLU’s list consists of actions that the executive branch could take on its own.

    On Day One, the next president should, by executive order, direct all agencies to prohibit the use of torture and abuse; direct the new Attorney General to appoint an outside special counsel to investigate, and, if warranted, prosecute any violations of federal criminal laws; close down Guantánamo and either charge and try detainees in criminal or traditional military courts or transfer them to countries where they won’t be tortured; and end the practice of extraordinary rendition.

    In his first 100 days, the president should take actions, as detailed in the ACLU document, to end illegal spying and surveillance, to protect Americans from privacy violations and discrimination, to end the federal death penalty, and to increase government transparency.

    For the new president’s first year, the ACLU proposes actions across a broad variety of areas that are needed to undo the Bush legacy.

    “For starters, the next president should immediately put an end to torture, shut down Guantánamo and the military commissions and ban ‘extraordinary rendition,” said Fredrickson. “All of these practices are abominations – violations of our nation’s dearest principles and a blot on America’s good name. He must then proceed vigilantly to restore our other precious rights and values that have been trampled upon, including freedom from unchecked government surveillance, racial and gender equality, and government transparency.”

    “The actions we are calling for are steps that the next president can take easily – in many cases with the stroke of a pen – but which will carry great weight in restoring our nation’s true place as a beacon of liberty, rights and justice in the eyes of others and ourselves,” said Fredrickson. “Many things the next president will need to do will be hard. But these will be easy.”

    The ACLU’s 83-page document proposes actions across a wide variety of topics, including national security, human rights, women’s rights, civil rights, drug policy, the rights of LGBT Americans, immigrants and prisoners, privacy and free speech.

    “Presidents have enormous power not only to set the legislative agenda, but also to establish policy by executive order, federal regulation, or simply by refocusing the efforts and emphases of the executive agencies,” said Fredrickson. “The new president must use all of these tools to restore our freedoms and move the country forward.”

    “The American people still need to be reminded why grants of unchecked power do not actually make us safer,” said Fredrickson. “And why Americans must stand firm in protecting the values that at our best we have always represented and defended at home and around the world.”

    To download and see the entire ACLU transition plan including suggested executive orders, mandates and directives from the president, go to

  11. MadDog says:

    Rather, it’s partly McCain’s superstitious habit, and partly a concession by McCain that he’s not going to win and therefore he can spend the final days of the campaign making symbolic gestures.

    May a tribe of trolls tirelessly tapdance on his toes!

  12. masaccio says:

    Obama is in Columbus, OH, and I get into town at 12:30 if the fates of flight permit! Then on to Athens for some of that excellent Voter Protection.

  13. JohnLopresti says:

    The opening post is a worthwhile perspective. Additionally, I would aggregate to the apt thread reflections, a life size albeit distant image of the AZ political ancestry from the article at the outset, namely, a few observations concerning the namesake of an AZ chain of department stores Mays acquired called Goldwaters. The fringe of reactionaries assembled a hodge podge of regressive policies, anachronisms from the uptight 50s, carrying into the early decade of the 60s with repressive policies couched in saccharine euphemism, mouthed by BarryGoldw, and one of his leading speechwriters later Reagan nominee Scotus chief justice Rehnquist. It was as if the implaccability of dawning civil rights remained invisible to Goldwater and Rehnquist, among others in their faction. WaPo muses about some of Rehnquist’s origins in a few passages in a 2005 obit, there. Voter suppression was one feature of Republican party polity which Rehnquist opted to utilize as his pathway to intraparty influence. He wrote in AZ media vitriol about letting minority voting increase, and in Richardson v Ramirez penned blind illogic about US exconvicts forever being banned from access to the ballot box. Goldwater was fringe element with jingoist lexicon, a passion which often has consumed the presently about to exit McCain. It is easy to slip into excesses of rugged individualism in some regions in the US, though there are more elegant ways to foster the brilliance of insight available in their harsh fora on occasion, a more reasonable path which both McCain and his forebear Goldwater, and Goldwater’s speechwriter Rehnquist, eschewed. Some professors have written eloquently on aspects of this. I recommend the publications by Frank Askin, Marci Hamilton, Mark Tushnet, Randy Barnett in that regard. Some of the Rehnquist material also is available in the 26MB transcript of his and Justice Powell’s 1971 weeklong Senate Judiciary committee hearings.

    • bmaz says:

      The 60s Goldwater you describe is, sadly, fairly accurate; although I don’t know if he was excited by some of the Rehnquist and friends vote blocking etc., he sure abided by it, so he owns it. In his defense, as he aged, he grew progressively more tolerant and moderate. In today’s world, Goldwater would likely be a very centrist to slightly right leaning Democrat, although he likely would not have formally left the GOP (he might have (not impossible that he would have left though, he was his own guy). You must have slipped this in while I was writing a post I put up about half an hour ago; same track about the history of the department stores.

  14. skdadl says:

    I wouldn’t quite say that Conrad Black is endorsing McCain, but he is repeating most of the manipulative drivel about Obama that we’re all familiar with, cloaked in his usual ten-dollar words and the message that he, Conrad, would always be a much better choice than anyone else.

    I wonder whether Fitz realized that Conrad was going to have this much fun in gaol?

    The Notional Pest, btw, is the newspaper that Conrad founded here, and it is now foundering. You can see that by the clumsy layout of that hed, which makes it look as though the title of the article applies to the Lord hisself. Heh.

    • Ishmael says:

      Endorsements from Conrad Black and Dick Cheney in the same day? I’m not even sure that’s worth 2 votes since Conrad can’t vote in the US!

      • skdadl says:

        lol. I’m not sure Conrad can vote in Canada any longer either since he gave up his citizenship, although I believe that he is still a member of the Privy Council, believe it or not.

        But wotthehell. Vote schmote. When you’re Conrad, you don’t fuss the details. He has a new project: by the time he’s out of that gaol, he’ll own the joint.

  15. PJEvans says:

    As everyone familiar with Arizona politics knows, Prescott is where Barry Goldwater formally began his Senate campaigns and his campaign for the presidency on the steps of the Yavapai County Courthouse. As his successor and in deference to his tradition, I have ended all my Senate campaigns here.

    McCain thinks AZ politics revolves around him? Or does he thinnk Goldwater is contagious?

  16. kspena says:

    FYI-for those who are interested in the mccain campaign today…

    From: Rick Davis, McCain-Palin Campaign
    Subject: The State of the Campaign

    Interested Parties

    Rick Davis, Campaign Manager

    October 31, 2008

    The Final Push

    The State of the Campaign

    If your television is tuned to cable news as frequently as ours are here at campaign headquarters, you have seen the pundits say John McCain and his campaign are done. And, if you’ve followed this race since the beginning, this is clearly a song you’ve heard before. I wanted to take some time today to give you some insight on the state of the race as we see it.

    An AP poll released this morning revealed a very telling fact: ONE out of every SEVEN voters is undecided. That means, if 130 million voters turn out on Tuesday, 18.5 million of them have yet to make up their mind. With that many votes on the table and the tremendous movement we’ve seen in this race, I believe we are in a very competitive campaign. That means, if 130 million voters turn out on Tuesday, 18.5 million of them have yet to make up their mind. With that many votes on the table and the tremendous movement we’ve seen in this race, I believe we are in a very competitive campaign.

    Here’s why:

    All the major polls have shown a tightening in the race and a significant narrowing of the numbers. In John McCain’s typical pattern, he is closing strong and surprising the pundits. We believe this race is winnable, and if the trajectory continues, we will surpass the 270 Electoral votes needed on Election Night.

    National Polls: Major polls last week showed John McCain trailing by double-digit margins – but by the middle of this week, we were within the margin of error on four national tracking surveys. In fact, the Gallup national tracking survey showed the race in a virtual tie 2 days this week.
    State Polls:

    Iowa – Our numbers in Iowa have seen a tremendous surge in the past 10 days. We took Obama’s lead from the double digits to a very close race. That is why you see Barack Obama visiting the state in the final days, trying to stem his losses. It is too little, too late. Like many other Midwestern states, Iowa is moving swiftly into McCain’s column.

    The Southwest – It is no secret that Republican candidates in the Southwest have to focus on winning over enough Latino and Hispanic voters in Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado to carry them to victory. John McCain has overcome challenges Republicans face, and has made up tremendous ground in these states with these voters. For these voters, the choice has become clear, and you have seen a big change in the numbers. John McCain is now winning enough voters to perform within the margin of error – putting these states within reach.

    Colorado – Barack Obama tried to outspend our campaign in Colorado during the early weeks of October and finish off our candidate in Colorado. However, after our visit early this week, we saw a tremendous rebound in our poll position, and Colorado is back on the map.

    Ohio and Pennsylvania – Everyone knows that vote rich Ohio and Pennsylvania will be key battlegrounds for this election. Between the two: 41 electoral votes and no candidate has gotten to the White House without Ohio. Senator McCain and Governor Palin have been campaigning non-stop in these key battleground states and tonight Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has pumped up our campaign at a rally in Columbus. Our position in these states is strong and undecided voters continue to have a very favorable impression of our candidate.
    Obama campaign faces tremendous structural challenges in the final days of this campaign

    Obama has a challenge hitting 50%: Barack Obama has not reached the 50% threshold in almost any the battleground state. He consistently is performing in the 45-48% range. When we look closely at the primary votes, we see a history of a candidate whose Election Day performance is often at or behind his final polling numbers. If this is true, our surge will leave Obama with even or under 50% of the vote on Election Day.
    Early Vote: The Obama campaign has promised that their early vote and absentee efforts will change the composition of the electorate. They have sold the press on a story that first time voters will turn out in droves this election cycle. Again, the facts undermine their argument. In our analysis of early voting and absentee votes to date: The composition of the electorate has not changed significantly and most folks who have voted early are high propensity voters who would have voted regardless of the high interest in this campaign.
    Expanding the Field: Obama is running out of states if you follow out a traditional model. Today, he expanded his buy into North Dakota, Georgia and Arizona in an attempt to widen the playing field and find his 270 Electoral Votes. This is a very tall order and trying to expand into new states in the final hours shows he doesn’t have the votes to win.
    The Final Barnstorm

    On Monday, we will have a 14 state rally with our candidates crisscrossing the country trying to turn out our voters and sway the final undecided voters. Governor Palin will hit Ohio, Missouri, Iowa, Colorado, Nevada and Alaska in the final day of campaigning, while Senator McCain will travel from Tampa, Florida, to Virginia, then Pennsylvania, Indiana, New Mexico, Nevada and finish the night in Prescott, Arizona. The enthusiasm and excitement we generate on Monday will be the electricity that powers our “Get Out the Vote” efforts on Tuesday.
    On the Ground

    Our field organization has tremendous energy and is out-performing the Bush campaign at the same time in 2004. This week our field organization crossed a huge threshold and began reaching more than one million voters per day, and by week’s end will have contacted more than 5 million voters. Our phone centers are full and our rate of voter contact is significantly out-pacing the Bush campaign in 2004. We have the resources to do the voter contact necessary to support the surge we are seeing in our polling with old fashioned grassroots outreach.
    On the Airwaves

    In the final days of the campaign, our television presence will be bigger and broader than the Obama campaign’s presence. The full Republican effort – the RNC’s Independent Expenditure and the McCain campaign will out-buy Barack Obama and the Democrats by just about 10 million dollars.
    In short: the McCain campaign is surging in the final 72 hours. Our grassroots campaign is vibrant and communicating to voters in a very powerful way. Our television presence is strong. And, we have a secret ingredient – A candidate who will never quit and who will never stop fighting for you and for your families.

    In these final hours, Senator McCain and Governor Palin are counting on you – they are counting on you to knock on doors, to make turnout calls, to contact your friends and neighbors. Get our voters to the polls and help John McCain fight for your and for our country. This is our last mission on behalf of John McCain and I have no doubt I can count on your effort and energy to carry us across the line to victory

  17. brendanx says:

    You forgot another stop: Saturday Night Live. I cringed as this shamefaced old prick tried to ingratiate himself to people like me: my campaign is a sham, wink wink.

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