Last Waltz for McCain in New Hampshire?
PETERBOROUGH, N.H. — On Sunday night, John McCain returned to where it all began.
The Republican presidential candidate flew to New Hampshire for one last question-and-answer session with the voters who put him on the map in 2000 and brought his campaign back from the dead in January of this year.
“I come to the people of New Hampshire … and ask again to let me go on one more mission,” McCain said at the Peterborough town hall.
Peterborough has a special significance for McCain. It hosted his last town hall meeting in 2000, when he won the Republican primary over frontrunner George W. Bush. Peterborough also hosted McCain’s 100th town hall gathering last year, at a time when his campaign was out of cash and on the rocks.
“There was a time not that long ago that I was riding on a well known airline, Group C in the middle seat, from Baltimore to Manchester, so we’ve come a long way thanks to you,” he said, referring to a period when he would fly on discount Southwest Airlines to get to campaign events.
Now McCain has two private jets to carry around his entourage.
The question-and-answer session had a more casual feel from the amped-up, tightly scripted rallies that dominate his schedule in the campaign’s final stretch. No teleprompters were in sight as the Arizona senator fielded questions from an enthusiastic crowd on immigration, student loans and energy.
McCain was joined by a posse of senators – Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, Judd Gregg and John Sununu of New Hampshire, Richard Burr of North Carolina, and Sam Brownback of Kansas — but was introduced by Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling, a demigod of sorts in Sox-crazed New England.
New Hampshire may have rescuscitated McCain’s career twice before, but it might not help him on Tuesday. The former Republican stronghold has been trending Democratic in recent years, and polls show McCain trailing Democratic rival Barack Obama by an average of 11 percentage points.
Tellingly, senior aide Charlie Black didn’t mention New Hampshire as he sketched out a possible victory scenario to reporters on the plane earlier in the day.