Samantha Hayes, in Washington, D.C.
June 30, 2008
The wheels on John McCain's Straight Talk Express bus served him well, but perhaps not as effectively as a set of wings. The McCain campaign is now operating a veritable fleet of vehicles on the ground and in the air, with the addition of a Boeing 737-400.
As McCain takes his presidential campaign to the skies, I thought about how the GOP nominee used to travel, before he was the nominee. It was last fall when McCain was struggling to raise money, laying off staff, and cutting costs in every way possible to keep his campaign alive. That meant flying commercial. There is even footage of McCain carrying his own bags through the airport in New Hampshire last year. One time his flight to Pittsburgh was canceled and he had to call into a hotel conference room and talk to his supporters through a speakerphone.
But it was during that time that McCain would tell reporters, some who had already sounded his campaign death knell, that he could "out-campaign anyone." He did. He came through in New Hampshire at the beginning of the year and went on to become the apparent Republican nominee. His scrappy style earned him points and endeared him to his supporters, though he did use corporate jets for travel from time to time, including one owned by a company headed by his wife. The New York Times reported that he did pay for the use of that jet, at least in part because he had backed campaign reform legislation that required him to.
But for the next few months anyway, McCain doesn't have to deal with canceled flights, security lines, or missed connections. The latest incarnation of the Straight Talk Express is a straight shot to wherever he needs to take his campaign. I checked out some pictures of this winged version. It has plush taupe leather seats and a couch. The fuselage is painted white and blue with a gold stripe running the length of the plane. McCain's Straight Talk logo and campaign website are emblazoned on the side. And behind the wing are three words next to an American flag, apparently a new campaign message. They are, "reform, prosperity, and peace."
So what now for the wheeled Straight Talk Express? Apparently it's now a fundraising tool. John McCain's website says if you make a campaign donation, of any amount, you can ride the bus for a day. Maybe those campaign contributions will go toward fueling the new jet.