McCain got into a little trouble when he didn't properly defend Hillary Clinton during a roadside stop when a woman referred to Hillary as a bitch. McCain had previously stuck up for Clinton in a GOP debate when his opponents were all denouncing her, but he didn't in that instance.
He got another tricky question in Weare about Rudy Giuliani from a man who seemed to think he was helping McCain by posing it:
I've got a two-part question that I'm kind of embarrassed to ask. Until a couple of weeks ago, I never thought it would be an issue in a presidential campaign—and you're probably not the best person to answer it—but you're the guy who is here tonight. Um, if you're elected president, can we expect to see you offering Secret Service protection to your mistresses [laughter], and how do you feel for the potential for how good an idea would it be for America to elect someone who can't answer that question in under 10 seconds?
McCain paced the stage and stammered a bit: "Can I just say that I believe the American people should decide who they want to be the president of the United States based on our vision, our positions on the issues, and our record. I just simply don't think it's appropriate for me to address that issue because I have no knowledge of it, and I also happen to respect mayor Giuliani I guess is what … [laughter] I respect Mayor Giuliani, and I respect everyone in this race. I have made many mistakes in my life, and so I also believe that there is a Biblical saying that 'judge not lest ye be judged.' I want this campaign to be based on our vision, our ability to articulate those visions, our experience, our background, and our judgment, and I thank you." (permalink)
McCain bus, headed to Weare, N.H., 6:40 p.m.: In the half an hour of bus riding I have experienced with McCain, he has talked about Pakistan (he essentially supports the Bush policy of supporting Musharraf), Putin (we could have seen it coming, but there's no new Cold War), how he would manage his White House (he'd deputize someone to give him bad news), and the state of the race he's in (slow and steady wins New Hampshire). It's not that his answers are particularly stunning, but I've become used to years of a closed-off White House and candidates in both parties who are managed down to their underpants. It's still refreshing to watch someone thinking out loud and, at the same time, someone who respects the conversation that he needs to have with the press and the public to be an effective president. (permalink)
Concord, N.H., on idling McCain bus. 6:30 p.m.: McCain started his pitch telling Mo Udall jokes, as he always does. When my mother died 10 years ago, I got all of her books from her days as a reporter. Many of them are very obscure. I have a small collection of books about Goldwater's rise and his '64 campaign and books about the economics of the mid-'60s. I can never throw them away because, well, she was my mom, and also I'm like her and I never throw anything away. I'm glad now because I'm carrying in my sack one of those books a more sensible person would have thrown away. It's by Mo Udall, and it's called Too Funny To Be President, which is also the title of my recent Mike Huckabee piece. (permalink)
Home of Marcia Moran, Concord, N.H., 5:30 p.m.: My socks are wet. Before we enter the McCain house party, we're all asked to take off our snow-covered shoes to protect the Oriental carpets. The front hall of the rambling Victorian is filled with little white bags of wet shoes. (McCain takes off his shoes, too. He wears gold-toed socks, for those keeping track.)
I've seen what the Iowa house of a Mitt Romney supporter looks like before the holidays, and on kitsch, the McCain forces have won. The halls are decked and not just with boughs of holly. In the dining room, there are row after row of dishes and cake plates stacked with cookies, brownies, and other snack items. On low tables sit dishes of nuts and M&Ms. On the piano stand, a dozen caroling figurines. On the mantle is a crèche. Snow globes linger. There's a plate with cookies for Santa somewhere in here. I just know it.
I am reminded of the difference between covering politics in Iowa and New Hampshire. In Iowa there are open spaces, and in New Hampshire it's close and hot. It's freezing outside, but you don't spend much time outside. You spend your time here in cramped quarters in bulky sweaters where the newfangled fabrics of high-tech coats and parkas are constantly whistling.
McCain speaks in rapid fire, the way he always does about immigration, the war, and global warming. The house is packed with about 200 people, and they love him. I'm tempted to say it felt this way eight years ago before he took the state, but it's too early for that. His closing argument to voters: "Look, why am I running: We face a transcendent challenge from radical Islam. The world changed after 9/11." (permalink)