OCTOBER 26, 2008
There's an interesting nugget buried in Robert Draper's McCain piece in today's Times magazine. Draper writes:
McCain’s speech in New Orleans on June 3 of this year — the night Obama effectively clinched the nomination — was delivered against a sickly green backdrop, a poorly executed version of an idea Schmidt borrowed from the eco-friendly 2006 Schwarzenegger campaign. Contrasted with Obama’s ringing articulation of change in St. Paul that very night, McCain’s speech (with its “That’s not change we can believe in” refrain) struck even some Republicans as churlish. McCain was so frustrated by his own, at times, stumbling performance that he vowed never to deliver another teleprompter speech again.
Strange. I always thought the green-screen speech was the final straw that allowed Schmidt to take over. See, for example, this Times profile from September:
It was what aides to Senator John McCain describe as probably the worst night of his campaign. As Senator Barack Obama claimed the Democratic nomination before a cheering sea of faces on national television, Mr. McCain countered with a lackluster speech in a half-empty hall, posed in front of a pea-green screen that became fodder for late-night comedy.
Steve Schmidt, a senior adviser to Mr. McCain who worked on President Bush’s campaign in 2004, could barely hide his fury in the coming days, as he announced — to anyone who would listen — that he would personally make certain the McCain campaign would never again embarrass Mr. McCain.
“Fun Steve is dead,” Mr. Schmidt said.
In the three months since that night in June, the McCain organization has become a campaign transformed: an elbows-out, risk-taking, disciplined machine that was on display here last week at the Republican convention that nominated Mr. McCain. And the catalyst for the change has largely been Mr. Schmidt, 37, a veteran of the winning 2002 Congressional and 2004 presidential campaigns, where he worked closely with Karl Rove, then Mr. Bush’s senior strategist.
I guess it's possible that Schmidt was only responsible for the pea-green screen, not the lackluster speech or the half-empty hall. Still, it's a little dubious to use a much-mocked speech as a pretext for a power-play when you're to blame for most loudly-mocked aspect of it.
P.S. This nugget from Draper is also pretty telling:
This was the case throughout all of the Palin footage. Consistency. Confidence. And . . . well, look at her. A friend had said to Davis: “The way you pick a vice president is, you get a frame of Time magazine, and you put the pictures of the people in that frame. You look at who fits that frame best — that’s your V. P.”
Schmidt, to whom Davis quietly supplied the Palin footage, agreed.
If I'm John McCain, I have just one thing to say to Davis and Schmidt after the campaign: "Please, please tell me I didn't end up with the kryptonite that is Sarah Palin because some idiot suggested picking a running mate using a Time magazine frame..."