McCain: A campaign moment

It is one of those moments that you only realize what was going on much later. I was right in the middle of the the McCain grabs the endorsement of Charley Crist story and I really did not know it. My habit, when covering political events, is to stand back on the edge of the crowd. It was what I did when I spent some time as a political operative during a Nevada gubernatorial campaign. On the edge of the crowd you get the big picture, you get the feel and the smell of the event. That is exactly where I was when John McCain walked into the Latin Builders Associatiton meeting with U.S. Senator Mel Martinez in toe, fresh with a sought after endorsement. There was a tall distinguished looking guy with a good suit standing next to me. A local McCain operative introduced me to Charlie Black, which Time Magazine describes as McCain’s “wise Man, famous for shepherding the candidacies of Ronald Reagan and the two Bushes.” Black is the consummate political pro. I mentioned to him that nailing down Mel Martinez was a big coup. He was quick in a very smooth way to focus the conversation on Florida’s tanned, popular, GOP Governor Charley Crist. Just about that time a stocky beaded guy appeared at Black’s side. Now I realized it was Mark Salter, McCain’s speech writer. Salter had a beer in his hand. I said to him that it looked like to me that, “you need that beer.” He kind of nodded, smiled and then it became clear that he’d been in on the coup to line up Senator Mel Martinez. The two political pros had questions about Charley Crist. Since I don’t cover politics on a regular basis I was not much of source of the latest inside scuttle butt, but now I realize
these were the guys leading the charge to snag an endoresment from the highly popular Republican Governor. They had lots of questions of a local reporter who was about their age. My instincts, having been in the game some years ago, was Crist would jump on the band wagon if the polls were looking good for McCain. Those polls convinced Senator Martinez and they probably goosed Crist into getting on board which he did late Saturday evening. It was a magic moment in a campaign. The two endorsements could have iced the Florida Repubican primary for John McCain. I was right there and was more worried about my upcoming live shot that soaking in and figuering out the moment.


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