Meghan McCain's first major appearance to promote her children's book version of her dad's life was going beautifully. On The Today Show last week, Meghan was composed, warm, and flawlessly made-up. On-air she managed to work in the fact that she'd attended a Reagan convention in utero, Republican street cred that's tough to top. And then came the flub. Responding to a question about Barack Obama saying her father "doesn't get it," she rambled her way through talking points into a disastrous sound bite: "No one knows what war is like other than my family. Period."
The misstep was, of course, perfect fodder for the lefty blogosphere. But the real danger to the campaign was that voters on the right might construe Meghan's remark as evidence that the McCain campaign doesn't value the contributions of average soldiers nearly enough. And so Meghan quickly went to her own blog and clarified her statement. Next, she uploaded a YouTube video of an amputee veteran saying that Obama's stance on the Iraq war disrespects the sacrifice that soldiers have made, and that McCain understands all that they've given for their country and for the Iraqi people. The video says what Meghan should have said in that interview, and it's visually arresting and has a soundtrack. In all, it was a wisely calculated response—and a far more typically shrewd Meghan McCain move than the earlier gaffe.
Meghan is the only one of McCain's seven children to campaign actively for him. Young, pretty, and tech-savvy, she's a tremendous asset, because she's got a better feel for the way the campaign news cycle works in this era than lots of highly paid strategists. Watch her freely volunteer that, yep, her dad uses that "lipstick on a pig expression," too—she knows that footage will always come back to haunt you. Or see her deftly put away a query about whether it's hurtful when people mock her father's age by laughing "He IS old!" The best way to neutralize a joke is by getting in on it.
Meghan McCain's blog, branded with an icon of a young woman in killer red heels bathed in the glow of a computer screen, bills itself as "musings and pop culture on the campaign trail." The pop-culture part consists of "songs of the day," and, for the most part, the musings are achingly simplified captions for the pictures and videos that make up the bulk of the content. After her Today Show appearance, for instance, Meghan posted backstage pictures of the interview prep and an encounter with Judge Judy. She also often puts up pictures of her family at home or on the campaign bus. A professional photographer and producer work on the blog, too, so the photos always look great.