Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Veteran's New Tour

On Thursday I felt like the odd one out. The last campaign I had covered before John McCain's June 12th Nashua, NH town hall meeting was Hillary Clinton's Pennsylvania Primary celebration on April 22, and it's been more than six months since I've caught up with McCain. Since late last year there has been a noticeable change in the tone of Senator McCain's campaign events, and I felt something different as soon as I walked into the Daniel Webster College gym on Thursday.

At McCain events, local tech crews have been replaced with 50ft high lighting trellises, staff have changed from polos to suits, and the overall feel of the "maverick" in a pack of bland (in my opinion) Republican candidates is gone. The production value of John McCain's once rural-feeling campaign events has increased tremendously, thanks largely in part to the full support of the RNC. I never attended a George W. Bush campaign event, but I can imagine it felt like this.

Even the look of the traveling press corps has changed—they are no longer a frequently-changing mix of local, regional, and national reporters, but a much closer-knit group of elite journalists resigned to the fact that they'll be covering the same candidate together for months to come.

A far cry from the cash-strapped campaign that trudged (often literally, see snow plow story) through New Hampshire, McCain is now running up expenses equal to his opponent's campaign operation.

So what separates McCain's expensive campaign setup from Obama's? Both candidates' events may look like concerts now, but for Obama the lights are bright, so the masses can revel in their company of thousands. At McCain's events now, the lights are dim and McCain ascends the stage, illuminated by a soft spotlight.

This is, after all, the election of the scene's new star and the veteran rocker—solo and performing at his second home.

McCain hasn't changed, I'm just seeing him under new lights now.

(All photos: Luke N. Vargas. 2008. All Rights Reserved)

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