McCain on humor, “the honeymoon”

Arizona Senator/GOP presidential candidate John McCain is in Iowa today, part of his "announcement" tour.  I had a chance to sit down with the senator and ask a few questions, but the dog ate my homework (my minidisc scrubbed the sound track).  The talented Todd Dorman, Des Moines bureau chief for the Lee Newspapers, was gracious enough to share his tape with me.  Mr. Dorman asked many of the same questions, so we can get the verbatim answers here on the blog.   

But first, here’s the Radio Iowa story outlining McCain’s thoughts on the Straw Poll. (Here is Mr. Dorman’s story.) You may remember that Rudy Giuliani’s Iowa guy, Jim Nussle, has dismissed the event as a "circus." There’s been no final answer yet, but the bets are that Giuliani won’t play.  Mitt Romney then quipped that if it’s a circus, he wants to be the ringmaster — a signal he’s in it to win it (oops, is that a copyrighted phrase?). 

My first question in the interview with McCain was about being attacked for his attempts at humor, then we discussed the economy, the manufacturing sector, health care reform and whether he prefers the role of underdog.  Again, the recording no longer exists.  Mr. Dorman’s tape provides us with the following:

"I’m pleased with the way things are progressing…I’m very happy with where we are," McCain said of his campaign at the onset.

Then came the "underdog" question, about whether McCain prefers to run as a challenger rather than the frontrunner.  McCain laughed.  "I know everybody says that, but naw, we’re running the same campaign…Look, in campaigns there’s ups and downs and ups and downs and the key to it is keep a steady stream…move forward and try to recognize that your’e going to, look, I didn’t do a good job fundraising.  We’re going to do a better job in the second quarter.  I’m happy with the numbers in the early states and I continue to see us making slow and steady progress.  We’re fine."

About the attacks on McCain’s jokes (the "Bomb Iran" song and the IED joke on The Daily Show):  "Look, a sense of humor got me through some very difficult situations in my life.  I think most Americans appreciate a sense of humor."

Is the honeymoon over with the press?  "I think the press is a group of professionals who judge people and write their stories on what they observe.  I think it’s very overblown to say the press likes or dislikes somebody.  I know that that in some cases is not the conventional wisdow, but frankly most people that I know in the business of journalism are professionals first."

There were stories in 1999 and 2000 about how George W. Bush gave people nicknames. (Quick: who did he call "Brownie?")  McCain called me Kay several times, but he did call me "kiddo."  Mr. Dorman was called "Todd" but on one occasion McCain called him "pal."  Very Rat Pack, don’t you think?  Anybody for a little Dean Martin music about now?

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.