Another day, another story about John McCain cutting off access to the press. Chief political reporter Adam Nagourney was with McCain in Ohio and reported "The New McCain: More Aggressive and Scripted on the Campaign Trail " for Friday's edition.
Senator John McCain's campaign events were once free-wheeling journeys marked by flashes of humor, candor and arch observations from the candidate about presidential politics - and John McCain. Oh, and moments that left no doubt that Mr. McCain was not working from any script.
"Thanks for the question, you little jerk," Mr. McCain said last year to a New Hampshire high school student who inquired about his age, raising his eyebrows as he chortled at his own joke. "You're drafted."
Not these days. As Mr. McCain worked his way through Florida and Ohio this week as the Republican presidential nominee, he was a candidate transformed. He unsmilingly raced through a series of relatively brief speeches, reading often from a teleprompter, and served up a diet of the kind of sound-bite attacks that he used to dismiss with an eye roll.
Mr. McCain is by all appearances struggling to stick to his script and avoiding, whenever possible, events that his campaign cannot control.
There are now not one but two drawn curtains on Mr. McCain's plane separating his spacious quarters from the press corps. Left idle is the couch that was built in the front of the plane - called "Straight Talk Air" - to reproduce at 30,000 feet the freewheeling chats with reporters that were the stock-in-trade on his bus; the other morning it was covered with newspapers. Mr. McCain, who promised to hold weekly news conferences if elected president, has not held one in more than a month.
Nagourney retained his hyper-sensitivity to attacks onDemocrats (though Times Watch does appreciate the phrase "populist cant" applied to Al Gore).
There are the attacks against Wall Street - the denunciation of cheats and greed and self-dealing - which recall the decidedly populist cant of Al Gore when he was the Democratic nominee for president in 2000. Mr. McCain attacked Mr. Obama, of Illinois, for holding a celebrity-strewn, big-dollar fund-raiser in Hollywood despite the fact that he had just held his own celebrity-strewn, big-dollar fund-raiser in Hollywood....And most notable are the dizzying cascade of attacks on Mr. Obama, who seems to have come to consume Mr. McCain as the weather turns cool, a reminder that this long election cycle is approaching its end.
Nagourney linked McCain to another old losing Republican candidate for president with this crotchety-sounding quote:
These days, Mr. McCain sounds less like his old self than Bob Dole, another Republican senator who ran for president in 1996, sounded in the closing days of his campaign - speaking louder or repeating statements that he thinks might be overlooked. "The American economy is in a crisis!" Mr. McCain said. "It's in a crisis!"