In May 2008, when John McCain couldn't turn out 500 people in his hometown of Phoenix for a fundraiser headlining both McCain and then-President George W. Bush, Bush called the incident a "five-spiral crash" according to Speech-Less: Tales of a White House Survivor by Matt Latimer, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush.
Indeed, John McCain, George Bush, and Michelle Obama headlined fundraisers on the same evening in late May 2008. The Bush-McCain event was originally a twofer -- a smaller, more intimate gathering for higher-dollar donors and a larger event for mid-range donors. The events drew so few people that the two-part event was combined into a single event that had to be moved from a reception hall to a private residence.
According to azfmaily.com,
the McCain campaign was worried that protesters outside would outnumber guests inside. Earlier the same week, the McCain campaign
had also been forced to move a fundraiser in Utah to a smaller venue.
The same evening as the Bush-McCain fundraiser, Michelle Obama greeted a packed reception hall in a downtown Phoenix hotel just around the corner from the original location of the McCain-Bush event.
The exerpt from Latimer's book:
I was once in the Oval Office when the president was told a campaign
event in Phoenix he was to attend with McCain suddenly had to be closed
to the press. The president didn’t understand why when the whole
purpose of holding the event had been to show Bush and McCain together
so the press would stop asking why the two wouldn’t be seen together.
If the event was closed to the press, the whole thing didn’t make
“If he doesn’t want me to go, fine,” the president said. “I’ve got better things to do.”
Eventually, someone informed the president that the reason the event
was closed was that McCain was having trouble getting a crowd. Bush was
incredulous—and to the point. “He can’t get 500 people to show up for
an event in his hometown?” he asked. No one said anything, and we went
on to another topic. But the president couldn’t let the matter drop.
“He couldn’t get 500 people? I could get that many people to turn out
in Crawford.” He shook his head. “This is a five-spiral crash, boys.”
We tried to move on to something else. But the president wouldn’t let
go. He was stuck on the Phoenix event. At one point, he looked off into
space and said to no one in particular, “What is this—a cruel hoax?”
Chris and I were tickled by that comment. For weeks, we would look for
ways to use it. “They are out of Diet Pepsis at the mess. What is this,
a cruel hoax?” I went to dinner with a friend. “They don’t have cheeseburgers?” I said, looking at the menu. “What is this, a cruel hoax?”
By the end of the campaign, McCain's support within his home state was dwindling. I wrote on October 31, "Four years ago, reporters gawked at empty Kerry-Edwards offices,
and lamented the excitement that a McCain ticket would have brought to
Arizona. Reporters were heartily impressed when McCain drew a crowd of
15,000 in Phoenix for a Bush campaign event. This year, though, Arizona"s McCain-Palin offices were quiet and empty
until just this week, whereas Obama offices have been crowded and full
of action since they opened in early September (before that, Obama
grassroots were active throughout the lower half of the state)."
McCain ended his 2008 presidential campaign with a stop in Prescott, an area usually considered a Republican stronghold in Arizona.