PHILADELPHIA, PA — For a candidate who once railed against “stale soundbites, staged rallies and over-managed messages,” John McCain seems to have turned over a new leaf.
Today marks the four-week anniversary since McCain held his last press conference (8/13 in Birmingham, MI) and three weeks since his last public town hall meeting (8/20 in Las Cruces, NM).
McCain’s new campaign strategy: staged rallies with thousands of supporters. Since announcing Sarah Palin as his VP choice on August 29, McCain’s has appeared at 11 rallies with his new running mate where both members of the ticket delivered a 10-15 minute stump speech.
While shifting to rallies is inevitable for any party nominee during a general election, McCain has always touted town hall meetings and interactions with the press as reasons for his success.
Throughout the spring and summer, then-presumptive nominee McCain enabled the public and the media an opportunity to question him on an almost daily basis, holding town hall meetings open to supporters and critics and conducting press conferences and media sessions aboard his bus.
Though he was also criticized at the same time for lacking a coherent message and constantly undercutting his own message by reacting to the news of the day and sometimes critiquing his own campaign. Even during interviews with national press in recent weeks McCain has been thrown off message (e.g. the houses controversy and an awkward TIME Magazine interview).
Referring to town hall meetings as the “essence of democracy,” he invited Obama to conduct multiple joint town halls this summer but the two campaigns failed to agree to a mutually desirable format.
“In all due respect, giving a speech is one part of the process, the most important process to me and the reason why I’m the nominee of the Republican party in my view and that of other objective observers is the close interaction I had with citizens not only in New Hampshire but all over the country and I’m very proud of my record of trying to be in a situation where people can tell me their hopes and their dreams and their aspirations and their concerns just as I heard today,” McCain told a Belleville, Michigan town hall meeting in July. “If I win, it’ll be because of events like this.”
It turns out that he may have been wrong on that one. McCain has seen his poll numbers jump since dropping the press avails and the town hall meetings and instead speaking at rallies with anywhere between 5,000 and 15,000 supporters where he can deliver his intended message.
But campaign advisers say that the town hall meetings are not gone for good and he will return to his favorite campaign format from time to time in the coming weeks.