The following are selected highlights from John McCain’s conference call with bloggers. (I didn’t transcribe a few questions that were, frankly, material that’s been covered quite a few times.)
McCain: “We’ve already had three events today, a few more to go. Just landed in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Earlier today we were in Charleston, Spartanberg and Greenville.”
He’s traveling with Coburn and Lindsey Graham, as well as several state officials.
On Michigan, “they gave the majority of votes to their native son, and I congratulated him. It was a very cold day. I first got the inkling that there might be a light turnout went to a polling place Traverse City Michigan busiest polling place – there was one person there, and it was a Ron Paul supporter. After seeing that, I thought we might have a lighter turnout.”
“One more thing on the economy — I have to tell people the truth, what I believe. What they need to hear, not just what they want to hear… I have great optimism about the future of the economy.”
“We’re happy with the way things are going here.”
Pat Curley: Are you feeling a little under the weather?
McCain: I’ve had a bit of a cold. You get these colds fairly easier with all the handshaking. I use hand sanitizer. I feel great, and the crowds are enthusiastic.
Phil Klein: I’m disappointed to hear you would endorse James Baker as someone to handle the Middle East…
McCain: With all due respect, I have a clear record of supporting Israel. Ask Ehud Barak. Ask any Israeli leader.I respect James Baker. I respect him a great deal. All I have to tell you is I will stand on my record. I mentioned his name among a group, there were others. I have consulted with many.If it bothers you that I mentioned James Baker’s name, then I will apologize for that, but I will stand by my record of support for Israel.
Pat Curley again: Could I get an anecdote about the heroism of your fellow prisoners at the Hanoi Hilton?
McCain retells the anecdote of the late Mike Christian for what might be the thousandth time. He sewed the American flag on the inside of his clothes and the prisoners secretly saluted it every day. Even after he was beaten, he went back and re-sewed another flag.
Me: Did Romney step on your speech last night?
McCain: Somebody told me that that had happened, but I didn’t know anything about it. Somebody afterwards said that our speech was at the same time as his. I did call and congratulate him before my speech which is the appropriate thing to do in that circumstance.
Me: I realize your aim is to win South Carolina, win more, get another influx of funds, but we’re coming up on some expensive contests. Will you have the funding to run ads in Florida and beyond?
McCain: We’ve already bought time for ads in Florida and beyond. We’ve had good fundraising even before New Hampshire, and since New Hampshire, we’ve been getting very large Internet contributions – hundreds of thousands of dollars a day. I’m confident we can do that. I’m confident we’ll win South Carolina first.
Matt Lewis: How will you use Tom Coburn?
McCain: We’re traveling all over the state today, and we’ll use him in Florida and everywhere else across the country as his schedule permits.
Matt Lewis: Response to alleged push-polling by Common Sense Issues (on behalf of Huckabee)?
McCain: We hear it’s going on, and it’s pretty nasty. Attorney General is looking into it. (He didn’t specify New Hampshire or South Carolina) I just hope people of South Carolina will not accept it. I don’t think they will this time. We’ll try to expose whatever nefariousness there is.
Jen Rubin: Mitt Romney says you’re a pessimist because you said some jobs aren’t coming back.
McCain: Jennifer, you know I have to tell people the truth. Some of the jobs of the industrial age can be done cheaper overseas. At the Detroit auto show, I saw hydrogen cars, electric cars, hybrid cars. I saw potential for new jobs, not the old ones.
It’s just another one of those statements –eh, if I weren’t optimistic about the future of this nation, the economy, our war against our enemies, I wouldn’t be around.
Here in South Carolina, they know the textile jobs aren’t coming back. But they’re excited about the BMW and Michelin plants.
Mike Goldfarb: Some people are perplexed by your rhetoric on global warming. Is this one of those ‘no surrender’ issues, or is there room for discussion?
McCain: There’s always room for discussion. But I don’t know how any conservative can not support cap and trade. We did it with acid rain. The Europeans are putting it into effect. It’s a capitalist process that encourages green technologies. If we’re wrong, all we’ve done is adopt green technologies, in an effort to give our kids a greener planet.
As far as ANWR is concerned, I don’t want to drill in the Grand Canyon, and I don’t want to drill in the Everglades. This is one of the most pristine and beautiful parts of the world.
Goldfarb: Carbon tax?
McCain: In all due respect, that’s a regressive tax that hits the poorest. That’s a gas tax. I notice the richest people in Washington live in Georgetown and can walk to work. The poorest are the ones who have to live out the furthest away from their work.