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McCain's Seven-State Sprint: Coral Gables, Fla.

The fire alarm goes off at McCain's hotel, the Biltmore, and sirens blare in the rooms, along with a recording: "An alarm has been detected and is being investigated. Do not panic." Nobody panics. They are too tired to panic.

McCain's motorcade arrived at the Biltmore at 1:20 a.m. Within moments, there were 58 people in line at the reception desk, where three clerks were taking credit-card imprints. The journalists received word that they'd need to have their bags in the lobby at 5:30 a.m., giving the McCain entourage roughly three hours to sleep. The campaign also announced that, because of logistical complications, half the press corps would have to skip two of McCain's events on Monday, which led to a mad scramble to locate another charter plane at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars.

At 1:45 a.m., reporters, camera crews and staffers picked up their bags and headed to their rooms. Getting on an elevator with Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas), a cameraman observed that his luggage had been left out in the rain and his clothes were now wet.

It is a luxurious hotel, a member of the Leading Hotels of the World, and the kind of place where they put slippers at your bedside. But, with a 5 a.m. wake-up call, there was no time to enjoy the pampering.

At 7:35 a.m., two hours after reporters were directed to bring their luggage to the lobby, McCain hopped into his SUV. An hour later, Straight Talk Air, McCain's 737, is on its way to Tampa, the first of seven stops for McCain on Tuesday. The death march has only begun, and he's already half an hour late.

By Dana Milbank  | November 3, 2008; 5:49 AM ET
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Next: McCain's Seven-State Sprint: Tampa, Fla.

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