CHARLESTON, S.C.--Pop quiz, hotshot. What does John McCain want the voters of South Carolina to keep in mind when they head to the polls tomorrow?
A. His 24-year pro-life record
B. His ad slamming Hillary Clinton for supporting a Woodstock Museum
C. His opposition to "the breakdown of the family"
D. His military cred
When I attended McCain's first post-Michigan stop in South Carolina--11:00 a.m. Wednesday at the Carolina First Center in Greenville--he mentioned all four. With third-party groups attacking his anti-abortion bona fides and evangelical darling Mike Huckabee posing a serious threat, McCain has spent much of the week protecting his right flank. Hence A through C. But tonight I attended his final stop before Saturday's all-important Palmetto State primary, and he mentioned only D --the military.
Mentioned might be too weak a word. A closing argument--the candidate's final pitch before an election--has to be clear, concise and indelible. Tonight, McCain's stagecraft bordered on monomaniacal.
In other words, political theater at its finest.
The setting: The USS Yorktown, a World War II aircraft carrier docked at--no joke--Patriot's Point. It's now home to the Medal of Honor Museum. Coincidentally, McCain was awarded a Silver Star, a Legion of Merit for Valor, a Distinguished Flying Cross, three Bronze Stars, two Commendation medals plus two Purple Hearts and a dozen service medals for his actions in Vietnam--but no Medal of Honor. You generally have to die before you get one of those. The only hitch: John Kerry announced his 2004 presidential bid aboard the same ship. You can't win 'em all.