John McCain got here by keeping it real. A bus to drive him. A microphone when he arrived. Coffee and doughnuts to keep him going.
They fueled a mind and a mouth that never stopped running, delivering the kind of straight talk people liked so much when he ran for president eight years ago. It helped rescue his campaign from near-collapse last summer. It revived his chances of becoming the Republican nominee.
Now, on the verge of doing just that, McCain is trying to figure out how to keep being John McCain.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign is offering a daily peek into their presidential fundraising, reassuring donors and supporters and prodding them into maintaining a healthy rate of income.
Sen. Barack Obama's camp on Friday demanded more than a peek, calling on Clinton to release her tax returns considering the $5 million loan she recently made to her campaign. The Clinton camp said she would make her returns public only if she is the Democratic Party's eventual nominee.
"There's an awful lot of information public about Senator Clinton's finances," spokesman Howard Wolfson said.
Super Tuesday was carefully engineered to decisively settle who would be the party's nominee. And it did. But it was the wrong nominee.
It's Republican John McCain who has the clear path to the nomination after Mitt Romney bowed to the inevitable and called it quits Thursday.
It wasn't supposed to happen that way. Hillary Clinton cultivated the role of the "inevitable" nominee and her operatives in the Democratic Party amassed a bloc of primaries and caucuses where her superior organization, name recognition and funding would deliver a knockout to whatever rivals were still standing.
It's great when the voters turn their backs on conventional wisdom!
We pundits said that almost certainly we'd all know the Republican and Democratic nominees on Feb. 5. Ha!
We said John McCain was political dead meat. Ha!
We said Barack Obama would quickly fall to Hillary Rodham Clinton's big money, big momentum and big organization. Ha!
A few said Rudolph Giuliani was unstoppable. Ha!
Some thought Mitt Romney would catch fire because of his money, good looks and business acumen, despite his changing views. Ha!
Before my more conservative friends start leaping from buildings over Sen. John McCain's presidential primary victories, let me try to coax them back in from the ledge. Despite his myriad apostasies (e.g. McCain-Feingold's free-speech limits, anti-ANWR-oil-drilling votes, a mixed tax-cut record, creeping Kyotoism and cold feet on waterboarding), the Arizona Republican could do for fiscal responsibility what Ronald Reagan did for tax relief.
It was the night of Super Tuesday, and there was Barack Obama in full-throated splendor, saying that teachers, cooks and kitchen workers were with him in his effort to keep a particularly threatening group from running Washington anymore.
And who are these baddies he was referring to? Why, they are lobbyists, which is to say, they are people working on behalf of these teachers, cooks and kitchen workers, of citizens concerned about all sorts of issues from civil liberties to gun control, of businesses, unions and advocacy groups.
Ann Coulter says she'd rather vote for Hillary Rodham Clinton than John McCain. Rush Limbaugh has suggested he'd rather see the Democrats take the White House than a McCain win. James Dobson said he'd stay home rather than cast a vote in a contest between McCain and any opponent.
Such threats aren't confined to the GOP. Michelle Obama -- Barack's wife -- said she would "have to think" about supporting the Democratic ticket if Clinton wins the party's nomination.
What's happening to party unity? Should voters stay home rather than support the lesser of two evils?
For Barack Obama, California's early presidential primary was too early. He ran out of time before he could make inroads with women and non-black minorities, who have been the base of Hillary Rodham Clinton's support nationally and helped her win here Tuesday.
Exit polls conducted for the Associated Press and the national television networks show that Clinton built a huge lead among people who chose their candidate early in the campaign, but the decision was a toss-up among voters who made up their minds in the final three days before the election.
John McCain effectively sealed the Republican presidential nomination on Thursday as chief rival Mitt Romney suspended his faltering presidential campaign. "I must now stand aside, for our party and our country," Romney prepared to tell conservatives.
"If I fight on in my campaign, all the way to the convention, I would forestall the launch of a national campaign and make it more likely that Senator Clinton or Obama would win. And in this time of war, I simply cannot let my campaign, be a part of aiding a surrender to terror," Romney will say at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington.
Democratic Presidential wannabe Hillary Rodham Clinton's "inevitable" march to the nomination is mired in a financial, electoral and morale swamp.
With bills and salaries going unpaid, Clinton admitted Wednesday she wrote out a $5 million check from her personal funds to cover some expenses and go forward in her neck-and-neck contest with the surging Barack Obama but the loan won't be enough to bail out the financially-strapped campaign.
Many staffers will work without pay this month and Capitol Hill Blue has learned that many vendors are demanding cash up front because of the campaign's overdue bills.
"For all practical purposes, we're broke," a campaign staffer admits.