Home Is Where The Heart Won For McCain

CONCORD, NH -- "I think we should give the new strategy and leadership a change to succeed. The consequences of failure will be grave."

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That was Sen. John McCain on New Hampshire Public Radio this morning. In case it's unclear,
McCain was speaking about Iraq, not making a plea about his campaign.

The newspaper stories about McCain's visit to New Hampshire this morning are full of the prefix "re" -- as in "restart" -- "rejuvenate" ... "remake" ... "recapture."

This is New Hampshire. It’s McCain’s state. As long as a candidate has a national platform and a state, he’s not dead. Reporters came to Concord today to cover a funeral, and what we found instead was a juiced up candidate who doesn’t really need journalists to give him a second life.

After a speech on national security and Iraq – fallow ground for McCain, he decided to let the audience quiz him. That wasn’t planned. McCain’s counselor-cum-co-author Mark Salter looked at Mike Dennehy, the national political adviser. “Did you plan this?” “Nope,” Dennehy said. “Me neither,” Salter said. The timing got tough – McCain had a half dozen television interviews lined up.

McCain met with his New Hampshire leadership team for an hour this morning. “He was upbeat. In really good spirits,” said Steve Duprey, his state chairman. “McCain told us, you know guys, we’re going to do fine. We’re going to run the kind of campaign we did last time.”

“I said to John McCain, at least we have the strategy we should have. I mean, we realized a month in that we weren’t going to be the frontrunner,” Duprey said.

“We know what events work,” he said. “I don’t need some 25 year old who’s run one campaign in Washington telling us what works for the state senator in Georgia telling us what we need in the schedule. “

Being outside of Washington and in New Hampshire “is where he needs to be,” Salter said.

At a press conference after the speech, Salon’s Walter Shapiro asked this unanswerable question: “Senator, which are you more optimistic about: progress in Iraq or you winning the Republican nomination?”

On his way out of the conference hall, Time’s Mark Halperin asked him whether he’d lost the aura of the excitement/insurgent candidate again. “I can be again,” was how McCain answered.

He shot Halperin an insouciant look.

McCain then held court on a call with conservative bloggers.

In the past few days, new campaign manager Rick Davis has done a fairly serviceable job at filling in some of the holes left when the departure of his old campaign manager and chief strategist started a mass exodus of senior staff. He's brought back McCain's longtime finance chief, Carla Eudy, McCain's 2000 pollster, Bill McInturff, and a handful of outside advisers.
As Dennehy was leaving the conference hall, he noticed that one of the table guests had left several McCain handbills unmolested – and in relatively mint condition. “Hey,” he said to McCain’s state director, Jim Barnett, “we should recycle these. We gotta cut costs.” He was smiling, so he was joking. Sort of.