McCain: 'Having Fun' in the Home Stretch

'Things Seem to Be Really Catching On'

McCain's 23-year-old daughter, Megan, travels with him, too. "It's really fun," she said. "I can't explain it, it's like amazing. It's like being on tour, but with your family. Things are really great now, his spirits are really high. … Things seem to be really catching on."

And she's right. After months of being written off as a candidate, McCain is hot. Again.

A couple of months ago, McCain was sinking. His support for an unpopular war, his sponsorship of an even more unpopular immigration reform bill, his opposition to ethanol subsidies in Iowa and torture everywhere alienated many Republicans.

On the bus, his friend and supporter Tom Ridge, former Homeland Security secretary, recalled the disappointment.

"The campaign had its challenges and certainly there was a low point during the summer. And I went up to see John in his office. … And John was obviously disappointed, unhappy. And then he said to me — typical John McCain — 'You know, I have been through a lot worse in my life.'"

'They Just Didn't Believe Us'

McCain admits, however, that his campaign did make some mistakes, especially when it comes to immigration.

"The immigration issue because of the volatility and the anger and the concern that Americans feel about it," he said. "[They] didn't trust us when we said as part of this solution that we would secure the borders. They just didn't believe us."

But taking unpopular stands may have turned out to be a good strategy for McCain. This weekend, he got two big newspaper endorsements — The Des Moines Register and the Boston Globe — and local political analysts say he's hitting his stride.

"He's finally articulating the message of restoring and changing government," said Jennifer Donahue, senior adviser for political affairs at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics. "That's where he was in 2000. It's taken eight years to get back there, but he is back on message."

'That's the Way You Win in New Hampshire'

And while his message is generally positive, he's not above taking a swipe at Huckabee's foreign-policy credentials.

"To my knowledge Gov. Huckabee has never been to Iraq. I don't think he has ever been to Afghanistan. I know Musharraf. I have been to Waziristan. I know Olmert. I know Maliki. I know these people. I have been involved in these issues for the last 20 years."

Huckabee did make a trip to Iraq and Afghanistan in 2005.

At the end of another long campaign day, McCain doesn't seem to be in any hurry. He's still going at it and looking forward to the next day and the next day where he says he will encounter "more of the same."

"Town hall meetings, going to the various establishments, going in and shaking hands talking to people and answering their questions and addressing their issues. That's the way you win in New Hampshire."

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