The Cycle

Behind the McCain campaign

For an upcoming JQA, I spoke with Katie Connolly, a political correspondent for . Connolly was granted behind-the-scenes access to the McCain campaign under the agreement that none of the reporting would be published until after Election Day. One question not included in the printed interview was, how did the McCain camp handle the final weeks of the campaign?

Connolly replied: “After the financial collapse in September, senior advisers knew the outlook was grim, but they continued to believe there was a path to victory, however slim. They decided not to tell McCain that he would likely lose while they believed his candidacy still ‘had a pulse,’ as one adviser put it.

“Colin Powell’s endorsement of Obama a couple of weeks before the election deflated the morale of the senior group somewhat, particularly because the announcement caused their overnight polling numbers to drop dramatically. But oddly, the more far-fetched victory appeared, the more it seemed that John McCain was enjoying himself.

“He campaigned long and hard right down to the wire, and seemed more upbeat and happy than he had in weeks. McCain has always relished underdog status, and he felt comfortable being cast once again as the scrappy solo fighter, up against wall, still swinging despite the odds. Steve Schmidt told his staff in a pep talk the week before the election that losing a battle doesn’t make someone a loser. The way people act in the face of losing, whether they are noble or whimpering, is what creates losers.

“John McCain certainly adhered to that idea, and was determined to be hard-working and appear gracious in defeat.”

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