John McCain came back to bid farewell to his traveling press corps on his final campaign flight from New Mexico to Arizona. A few minutes later, his chief political strategist Steve Schmidt stood in the aisle surrounded by reporters’ digital audio recorders. Here is a quick transcript of what he said:
He’s [McCain’s] been working very hard over the last 100 days of the campaign. Long day yesterday. Late night. Early start this morning. And he’s going to cross the finish line head up, running all the way. We will see results here in a few hours. . . . It’s the only way to finish anything that you do in life, that’s a competitive venture, which is full speed. . . . We did our absolute best in this campaign in really difficult circumstances. We had some tough cards to play all the way through, and we hung in there all the way. You look back in the middle of September, [the] economic collapse of the country, a number of different things. We did the best we can in historically difficult circumstances from a political climate. It is entirely doubtful that anyone will have to run in a worse political climate than the one John McCain had to run in this year. And we have a path to victory. We are going to know what it is in a few hours. But certainly on a personal level I am very proud to have a chance to be associated with John McCain. He’s a hell of a good guy. . . . The global economic collapse in the middle of September occurred at a time when we were ahead in the race, dropping the right-track number to roughly 5, 6, 7 percent, which are numbers that I don’t think will ever be seen again in any of our lifetimes. It was a bad economic environment throughout the election, where people were angry at the incumbent party. At the end of the day, I don’t think there is another Republican that the party could have nominated that could have made this a competitive race the way that John McCain did. It’s one thing we know for sure is that at a Congressional level the Senate Democratic majorities and the House Democratic majorities will expand. The party has been very unpopular. The president’s approval numbers were not helpful in the race. But the party as a whole is unpopular with the American people, and that was a big albatross.