It was April of 2008, at the meeting of the Republican National Committee in Albuquerque. All the state GOP organizations were to submit their plans to the McCain campaign for how they would win their respective states in the fall election.
When it came time for Nevada to make their presentation, the state chairman told the campaign how much money it would take to win the state, the amount of votes needed to win, and how much staff was needed on the ground. But according to state chairman Sue Lowden, McCain had a secret weapon in Nevada.
According to Lowden, there was a bit of a charisma gap between candidate Obama and candidate McCain. The best way to close that gap was to have a line of scantily clad go-go dancers in the terminal of the Las Vegas Airport ready to greet the Senator as he emerged from the gangway to begin his campaign in the state. Lowden argued that this was a great way to get John McCain on the cover of People Magazine, and since everyone in Nevada read People, John McCain and the showgirls would put the state safely in the win column for the GOP. Yucca Mountain be damned.
In light of the campaign McCain ended up running, there might be an argument that showgirls would have been a better idea than anything he actually ended up doing. We'll never know. But at the time, it caused most of the staffers in the meeting to choke back hysteria.
"It was an ongoing joke around the McCain campaign from there on out: Operation Showgirl," recalled one of the staffers.
Today, Sue Lowden, architect of Operation Showgirl is one of the front runners for United States Senate in Nevada, in a Republican primary for the right to face Harry Reid in November.
"I’m devoting 100% of my time to this, and I’m going to shake as many hands as possible and reintroduce myself to those who already knew me, and for those who don’t me, I’m going to make sure they know I’m the real thing," she said.
Perhaps that real thing will indeed be a little showy, or at least reminiscent of the plan she cooked up for McCain; as a longtime resident of Las Vegas, she was a former Miss New Jersey and runner up to Miss America. She anchored the nightly news in Las Vegas for over a decade, during which she was both married and gave birth to her two children — live, on air.
"Instead of the sports that night on the 11 o'clock news they went live from my hospital room," she told me.