Riding with McCain

October 27, 2008

Reuters Boston staff photographer Brian Snyder is traveling with the campaign of Republican presidential nominee John McCain through election day.

I first met, photographed and spent time traveling with Senator John McCain more than eight years ago as he campaigned for the 2000 New Hampshire primary during his first try at becoming the Republican party’s presidential nominee.

Back then the photographers (as well as many reporters) rode around on the campaign bus, the Straight Talk Express, right with Senator McCain. Virtually everything was “on the record” and fair game. Senator McCain was very approachable, chatting with the photographers and reporters regularly and getting to know most of us by name. In the end, Senator McCain lost the Republican party’s nomination to then Texas Governor George W. Bush, but I came away from those weeks with a feeling that I had been able to get a rare and very interesting look behind the public veneer of a presidential campaign.

Republican presidential candidate Arizona Senator John McCain (L) talks to reporters aboard his campaign bus, between campaign stops in Moultonborough and Plymouth, New Hampshire, January 24, 2000. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Republican presidential candidate Arizona Senator John McCain (R) listens to advice from his campaign staff on board his campaign bus as his wife Cindy (L) looks on near Concord, New Hampshire January 25, 2000. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Returning to cover Senator McCain’s 2008 presidential bid has meant a return to familiar faces. But it seems that some of the lessons learned from the 2000 campaign have resulted in considerably less access to the candidate. Even when the campaign goes on a bus tour and the Senator rides on the Straight Talk Express bus, the photographers ride in a separate bus behind him. On his campaign plane, a deliberately drawn curtain consistently separates us from the candidate and his staff. Now glimpses of the person behind the public candidate are rare.

Republican presidential candidate U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ), seen through the window of his campaign bus, talks on his mobile phone in Dallas, Texas March 4, 2008. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Not too long ago, those of us traveling full-time with Senator McCain sometimes barely saw the candidate in the course of a day. When Senator McCain was in Washington as the U.S. Congress worked to pass an economic bailout bill sometimes the total time we spent photographing Senator McCain in an entire day could be measured in seconds despite riding in his motorcade from dawn until well after dark. Now, our days consist of two or three rallies in different cities and states; though the states are largely, predictably, confined to ones like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Colorado and New Mexico. The rallies are all more or less cookie cutter versions of each other.

As a photographer covering Senator McCain, I cannot get away from, and am always conscious of, his complex personal story. Watching Senator McCain through my lenses, I wonder what drives him to want to be President? What do the crowds, the press, the rigors of the campaign trail look like through the lens of his past as a Navy pilot and POW?

The task is to try to find something fresh at each event, tell the story of this campaign, and, through the accumulation of photographs, create a portrait of John McCain, Republican presidential nominee.

My favorite image from the past few days came from a stop at a farmstand in Plantsville, Florida. The plan was for Senator McCain to buy a strawberry shortcake, so I went behind the counter to shoot over the servers’ shoulders. There were a lot of ways this move could have burned me – the screen above the window would virtually obscure the Senator’s face, the Senator could have taken his strawberry shortcake, turned around away from me and taken a big taste of it. Instead, he ducked his head under and through the window to shake hands with the servers. My gamble had paid off.

My favorite image from today is this clean, simple picture of Senator McCain winking to an audience member. This connection between the candidate and the people there to see him seems genuine. Those few moments like this must be one of the rewards of running for president.

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I have just figured out the mental reasoning of Sarah Palin. It is so simple. Here it is, if she thinks what she does or anyone else is right, there is no other way to think about it. If she thinks what she does is wrong or anyone else, there is no other way to think about it. She sees herself as being perfect in everyway. So goes the Diva…….

Posted by Jack | Report as abusive

Excellent photography. Thank you for showing a part of Senator McCain that does not show up on the television. Although I am an Obama supporter, it reminds me that we are lucky to have two very exceptional men running for the presidency.

Posted by Saxxon Domela | Report as abusive

I like McCain. Just look into his eyes, his smile, you know he a good guy, someone who cares people, someone you can trust. In contrast, if you look at Obama’s face, you can see a guy deeply hides something, something dark there.

Posted by quoquo | Report as abusive

The best thing I like about McCain is how open he is with the press and people he talks to them. Obama hides and stops talking to the people.

Posted by Dawn | Report as abusive

Projection ….

The tendency to ascribe to another person feelings, thoughts, or attitudes present in oneself, or to regard external reality as embodying such feelings, thoughts, etc., in some way.

Posted by Dave | Report as abusive

JM you are sweet

Posted by brandon | Report as abusive

Is the Wall Street Market Pricing in an Obama Win??

We all realize that a large part of the financial world revolves around perception and anticipation. No matter who wins next week… they will have their hands full next year with the continuing economic problems in the US and the world at large. It is also quite obvious that the two candidates will approach the problems with quite different solutions…. I cannot help but wonder at this point how much this weeks financial fluctuations might be associated with the market pricing in an Obama win??

Posted by Stan Barrett | Report as abusive

Why is it that Obama supporters are able to express themselves so clearly, and use subtle concepts like “projection”?

Posted by Robert | Report as abusive

It makes me glad to see that at least one of the candidates for president is willing to speak to the press. Since Biden’s interview with a local news station where the reporter asked direct questions about socialism and spreading the wealth, the Obama campaign has said they will no longer do interviews with that station. He’s a candidate for the presidency, he is answerable to everyone of the country, not just those that ask the right questions.
The news stations website, where you can view the interview, is: www.wftv.com

Posted by Jordan | Report as abusive

To borrow from quoquo: I like Obama. Just look into his eyes, his smile, you know he a good guy, someone who cares people, someone you can trust. In contrast, if you look at McCain’s face, you can see a guy deeply hides something, something dark there.

People like quoquo and Dawn are projecting their own bias. I see those images of McCain and see an angry man, who is detached from his wife, who looks bewildered and unhappy.

Posted by oaklynne | Report as abusive