Arizonans are sad. We've lost our hero, our maverick, our straight shooter. There was a time at the beginning of John McCain's presidential bid when he promised to run a respectful campaign befitting his stature and honoring the people he asked to serve. He promised!
Arizonans were thrilled. From the time when McCain was savaged by the Bush campaign during his 2000 presidential bid, Arizonans had kept the wagons circled and protected his back. He was Arizona's Senator and, by golly, he was respected.
By the time the 2004 Republican Convention rolled around, Amy Goodman wrote that McCain had forgiven and forgotten the vicious treatment he had received at the hands of Bush and Rove during 2000. He embraced Bush wholeheartedly and Arizona conservatives understood.
McCain then informally announced his candidacy on a February 28, 2007 telecast of Late Night with Letterman. Arizona Republicans were thrilled when he decided to shake it off and run again. Mac was back! And he was funny too.
Then he hired the same people from the 2000 Bush campaign who had so viciously smeared him, his wife and young daughter. Instead of conducting a conversation about issues, McCain and his surrogates decided to embrace the same tactics of attack and smear that had ruined him. His campaign employed negativity as its course of action to win the presidency and gain respect.
Unfortunately, many former supporters felt demoralized by how Arizona's once honorable hero sullied his own good character in the process. This was perhaps most evident by the sour faces and scant attendance at a final rally held at Desert Storm Park in the center of Phoenix just three days before the election. The fifth largest city in the nation only coughed up only about 200 subdued participants.
Even worse, nearly a quarter of the crowd were local and foreign media, shouldering cameras and pulling out pocket notebooks to record this last event held not far from McCain's Phoenix home. Journalists from Poland, Spain, France, Portugal and New Zealand shuffled about trying to find something on which to report.
Journalist, Elena González Mateos, of Onda Cero Radio in Madrid, Spain has spent months following both Obama and McCain rallies across the country. She sat on the grass, watching a group of slump-shouldered people searching for some shade. She mused:
One huge difference, besides the much smaller number of people who come out to hear McCain, is that the McCain events are always unorganized and just, well ... just a mess.
Advertised as a major three-hour event, yet lasting less than an hour, the occasional applause sounded more like polite golf claps rather than enthusiasm for Arizona's home boy candidate.
Touting this as its "Ninety Hour Rally," speaker after speaker claimed that the polls were dead even nationally and not at all what the media is reporting. Each pleaded with the crowd to man the Phoenix office and to make non-stop phone calls "twenty-four hours a day" until the polls close on Tuesday.
A palpable shudder went through the audience, however, as most notable speaker, Senator Jon Kyl, attempted to rouse the quiet crowd, by saying, "If John McCain were not on the ticket, Arizona would be a Blue state now like Colorado."
He tried to recover his stumble by talking about the difference in campaign coffers, but by then, many were looking at their watches and chatting aimlessly among themselves. Not even Phoenix's 92 degree temperature could boil up more than a few seconds of chants for John McCain or Sarah Palin.
It might have been a different turnout if either McCain or Palin - or even McCain's new hero, Joe the Plumber, had been there to toss out red meat and insults. But with dozens of T-shirts still unsold and stacks of untouched literature left on tables, there was nothing left but to shuffle out of the heat and wait for those "Ninety Hours" to pass.