Former POW John McCain’s clever quip about being “tied up” during Woodstock in his criticism of Hillary Clinton’s earmark to preserve the concert grounds during the last GOP presidential debate caused widespread speculation that he could be the “comeback kid” of 2008.
McCain earned a rare standing ovation during the debate when he said, “In case you missed it, a few days ago, Senator Clinton tried to spend $1 million dollars on the Woodstock Concert Museum. Now, my friends, I wasn’t there, I’m sure it was a cultural and pharmaceutical event. I was tied up at the time.”
McCain’s senior media advisor Mark McKinnon said their campaign was still getting “huge buzz” from the line, which was parlayed into a 30-second advertisement titled “Tied Up.”
In a phone interview McKinnon, who handled advertising for President Bush’s 2000 and 2004 campaigns, said advisers had “talked a little” with McCain about the line before the debate. “It talked about spending, Clinton, it was funny and it mentioned the war,” McKinnon said. “It was better than a trifecta, it was a home run.”
McKinnon acknowledged their campaign had been riddled with staff turnover, sagging poll numbers, and lackluster fundraising, but stressed that “he’s the best survivor of the group. He doesn’t react to bumps in the road.”
As the campaign season goes on, McCain’s survival outside politics and through the Vietnam War will continue to be highlighted. McKinnon said McCain’s war experience is a large part of “his fundamental rationale for becoming President.”
McKinnon reminded that McCain had wisely spoken out against President Bush’s war strategies by demanding that larger numbers of troops should be sent to the region before the President’s “surge” and by calling for former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s resignation before he was replaced by Secretary Robert Gates.
McKinnon said if Bush had taken McCain’s advice “things would have been going better sooner.”
When asked about pundits and commentators who are eager to see the GOP presidential field narrow and who are inclined to prematurely count McCain out of the race, McKinnon said, “conventional wisdom gets proven wrong all the time,” and it was important to remember that McCain had more national campaign experience than the other candidates.
“No experience prepares you like having done it before,” he said. “He understands the process. This is the physics of the process.”