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McCain's Seven-State Sprint: Blountville, Tenn.

When you have seven events in a day, it's hard for a campaign to keep up with the advance work.

There are 5,000 people in the hangar for McCain's airport rally here, but only one unisex bathroom. It has two toilets caked in rust, no toilet paper and many, many flies. It is also right next to the room with the lunch buffet for McCain's entourage. Where is Joe the Plumber when you need him?

As McCain begins delivering his usual stump speech to the Tennesseans (actually, he is trying to reach television viewers in nearby Virginia and North Carolina, too), he gets some high-pitched feedback from the sound system. "This microphone is brought to you by the Democratic National Committee," he jokes.

The sound problems subside. Not so the plumbing problems. When reporters board the press charter for the next leg, to Pittsburgh, they discover that the toilet in the back of the plane is stuck in flush mode and spewing noxious gases into the cabin. The crew says not to worry. They are evidently more worried about something going on with the plane's left wing; several aircraft personnel examine the wing for an extended time, but eventually let the craft take off.

A tense dynamic has developed on today's seven-state death march. Important journalists get to ride with the candidate and his advisers on McCain's plane, a 737 with electric power outlets and hot food. The others, such as the Washington Sketch writer, are on a Brazilian-made commuter jet flown by ExpressJet airlines, with a balky toilet, smelly cabin, and something worrisome on its left wing.

Reporters on the McCain plane get briefings in flight from McCain advisers; those on the junior-varsity press charter must beg for crumbs from their colleagues on the varsity press plane. Here, for example, are a few crumbs graciously provided by one of those on the varsity plane, who took pity on your correspondent and provided a transcript of a briefing McCain confidant Mark Salter gave reporters on the way to Tennessee:

The mood? "Short on sleep but pretty jazzed. . . . A little hard getting out of bed, but eight cups of coffee and a half a pack of cigarettes later I'm feeling pretty good myself."

Reflections on the campaign? "I'm not being very reflective. I'll go to Maine and reflect -- for about 15 minutes before I get drunk. Off the record!"

Sure, sure. How are you going to get through this day? "Crystal meth. Me, personally, that's how I'm going to do it."

McCain's breakfast? "I just saw him eat an egg taco."

McCain's wake-up time? "I imagine he got up about 6:30."

If he slept through the hotel fire alarm, that is.

By Dana Milbank  | November 3, 2008; 12:36 PM ET
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Next: McCain's Seven-State Sprint: Pittsburgh, Pa.


I'll look for you on the cable newsers tonight, Dana. From the sound of your day's events so far, you should look ravishing. Until then, I'm looking forward to your next report from, where was it again, the Moon?

Posted by: DorothyGale | November 3, 2008 3:01 PM | Report abuse

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