John McCain doesn't work weekends
By JONATHAN MARTIN | 6/26/08 4:47 AM EST Text Size:
Since effectively capturing the Republican nomination when Mitt Romney dropped out of the race on Feb. 7, John McCain has held just one public campaign event on a weekend.
Instead, after workweeks full of fundraisers, town hall meetings and interviews, McCain has been, in campaign parlance, “down” on nearly every Saturday or Sunday for 20 weeks, largely sequestered away from the news media.
He’s usually spending time with family, friends and campaign advisers at residences in Arlington, Va., and Phoenix or vacation homes near Sedona, Ariz., and San Diego.
That isn't to say McCain is kicking back and relaxing every weekend.
He’s hosted reporters and donors on separate occasions at his Arizona cabin, done a guest turn on "Saturday Night Live" and visited troops in both Iraq and at Walter Reed hospital.
Yet aside from an April rally on the steps of the courthouse in Prescott, Ariz., McCain has done little to capture media attention on weekends for nearly five months.
McCain aides say that they made a conscious decision after it became clear that they had won the nomination to use weekends primarily to return their candidate to his preferred surroundings in Arizona and to have him rest, bone up on policy, and meet privately with aides, advisers, contributors and other prominent officials.
And, they contend, there was little chance anyway of getting much exposure on the weekends in the face of the other contest that dominated the news in recent months.
“For a huge part of that time there was a Democratic primary going on,” notes spokesman Brian Rogers. “And we felt like we could get done what we needed to do [publicly] during the week.”
Another McCain aide dismissed the weekend downtime decision as “an insider thing.”
“I don’t think [voters] are going to be logging the hours,” the aide said.
McCain officials note that he’ll campaign on weekends for much of the summer and point to a speech he’s giving Saturday in Washington to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials and a fundraiser in Kentucky later that day.
When informed of McCain’s absence of public weekend campaign events, Barack Obama spokesman Bill Burton responded by sending a list of all the appearances his candidate had made on weekends in June alone (seven, including this coming weekend).
McCain’s habit of weekends off is recognized by his small band of beat reporters, who are pleased by their good fortune but nevertheless find it puzzling.
Yet for insiders who follow the campaign closely, his streak has become increasingly tough to overlook.
As with so many issues surrounding his bid, McCain’s schedule is a sensitive topic because it is unavoidably suffused with the looming question of his age.
In trying to answer skeptics who ask whether a 72-year-old has the vigor to hold the presidency, McCain points to his indisputably packed calendar — on weekdays, that is.