McCain Manager Says GOP Unpopularity, Economy a Drag
By Juliet Eilperin
PHOENIX -- On the flight back here from Albuquerque this afternoon, senior John McCain aide Steve Schmidt held a mini-press conference to discuss his take on the 2008 presidential race.
Schmidt said the campaign was determined to pull out all the stops today in order to woo undecided voters: "That's the only way to finish anything that you do in life that's a competitive venture, which is full speed."
But he also described a candidate who faced a daunting task in winning over Americans in the midst of an economic crisis.
"I think we did our absolute best in this campaign in really difficult circumstances, we had a -- we had some tough cards to play all the way through and we hung in there all the way," he said. "You look back in the middle of September -- economic collapse of the country, a number of different things -- we did the best we can in historically difficult circumstances from a political climate. It is highly doubtful that anyone will ever have to run in a worse political climate than the one John McCain had to run in this year."
The combination of September's stock market crash and President Bush's unpopularity made McCain's challenge much harder than it would have been in a typical election year, Schmidt said.
"The global economic collapse in the middle of September occurring at a time when we were ahead in the race, dropping the right track number to roughly five, six, seven percent, which are numbers I don't think will ever be seen again in any of our lifetimes, it was very difficult. It was a bad economic environment throughout the election where people were angry at the incumbent party and at the end of the day," he told reporters. "I don't think there's another Republican the party could have nominated that could have made this a competitive race the way that John McCain did. But it's going to, the one thing we know for certain, at a congressional level the Senate Democratic majorities and the House Democratic majorities will expand. The party's been very unpopular. The president's approval numbers, you know, were not helpful in the race but the party as a whole is unpopular with the American people and that was a big albatross."
When asked whether vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin had been a drag on the GOP ticket as well, Schmidt took a pass: "You know, we'll uh, I'm not going to do, there'll be time for all the post mortems in the race."
Still, Schmidt argued that McCain could pull out a win in the end, and that he didn't regret devoting more than a year and-a-half to promoting his candidacy.
"We have a path to victory, you know, we're going to know what it is in a few hours but you know certainly at a personal level, I'm very proud to have had the chance to be associated with John McCain and he's a hell of a good guy," he said.
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