Dishing from the McCain campaign trail with Judy Black, national co-chair of Women for McCain. Judy is traveling with her husband, McCain’s top advisor Charlie Black. We talked behind the scenes on the trail in the battleground states.
Connie Hair: Tell me about the reaction you’re getting from women around the country.
Judy Black: The women are so fired up. We’ve been going into the battleground states and concentrating there, but those women are really fired up. They are working very hard on the "get out the vote" efforts right now, just the old blocking and tackling of politics: the phone banks, the door knocks, and actually getting women to deploy from other states to come into their battleground state and help them out beginning Friday through next Wednesday. There’s a lot of enthusiasm. We’ve been getting state-by-state reports from our political office on the voter contact levels. The Bush 2004 re-elect was always looked at as kind of the Cadillac of the way you do these "get out the vote" efforts. We’re actually seeing a more intense level right now from our volunteers than there was in 2004. It’s very exciting.
Cindy McCain has been doing some “thank you” coffees for Women for McCain leadership in a lot of these states, just a small get-together for a few minutes and say thank you, and when they come in they’re just full of stories and they leave even more excited and more determined keep the job going.
Q: Just how busy is it on the campaign trail right now?
A: [Laughter] It’s crazed! It is from early morning to late at night and very little food in between or too much food depending on the day — but we just go, go, go. It’s just an unbelievable schedule.
Q: How are you guys holding up?
A: Everybody’s great. Senator McCain has a huge energy level. Because of him, everyone else stays pepped up and jazzed up. We’re there working and getting exhausted but he’s there actually making the speeches, and shaking hundreds and thousands of hands and answering questions from local media or national media and whatnot, and he still runs us into the ground! He’s unbelievable!
Q: Do you have a favorite road story?
A: Gosh, you know one of the real favorite things of this last week was out in Denver. We went by one of the Victory Centers to see how the phone banking was going and whatnot, and this woman had started this Moms for McCain Call Day. She had 30-some mothers there, and they were providing daycare, and they had 67 kids and they were doing face painting, and the surprise of that day was Meagan McCain came in and read her book that she’d done about her father to those kids. It was really a wonderful, wonderful event. You see people of all ages involved in these activities out in these battleground states and it was great!
Q: What is everybody’s favorite pastime on the plane?
A: I tell ya, I’m a needle pointer. I’ve been needle-pointing a little director’s chair for a grandson that was born last month and that’s my pastime. You see everybody doing all sorts of things. We’ve got a lot of readers and a lot of sleepers! Of course, everybody continues working on the computers and the Blackberrys and such.
Q: How have the crowds been out in the battleground states?
A: The crowds have been great! The one we had [Monday] night in Ohio — I heard it was going to be an outside event, and it’s starting to get chilly all over the United States and cool at night. We rolled in there, the sun was down and I didn’t have any idea and there were thousands of people, and they’d been standing there for hours because to get through security they’d have to be there early. And it was a real family event, too! There were little kids sitting on their dad’s shoulders — who couldn’t have been more than 12-14 months old… sitting up on her dad’s shoulders and clapping her hands when everybody else would clap! It was just great. Bales of hay and pumpkins around and the fall spirit, but it was just so great. Frankly, I think that’s where John McCain gets his energy back off of those people. It was just super.
We aren’t trying to build these mega, mega crowds because frankly our people are doing the voter contact and the "get out the vote" efforts, and we don’t try to pull them in from all over. In Durango, Colo., which is where I was born, the other night we had 8,000 people — 6,000 who had actually made it through and we had 2,000 people who were still trying to come through. They were still so enthusiastic and in the parking lot they could hear… so out of a city of maybe 18,000 people to have over 8,000 show up, that’s pretty incredible. In Grand Junction, Colo., where my family still is and where I was raised… they had 23,000 people there in that small city for Sarah Palin.
Q: Do you have any favorite signs you’re seeing in the crowds?
A: The other thing that we’re seeing out there right now is all of these homemade signs which are great and they say things like, Jose the electrician — that was down in New Mexico — and you see… all of these people who are small business people and they are relating to Joe the plumber. They’re holding their own signs up to let John McCain know that they understand what he’s fighting for so that’s been great. That’s been a lot of fun.
There are so many good signs, you know, of course I always love all the signs with the big hearts on them and people letting him know that they love him. Those are usually my favorites.
Q: Do you have a favorite John McCain story?
A: You know, I’m not sure there’s one favorite story! I think the thing about John McCain is his joy of life, his undying belief that this is the greatest country on Earth, and that we all on this campaign owe this country our hard work and dedication. But it is mainly his energy level. We would go out to work on things in Sedona, and we would work all day long and the next thing you know it would start to become dinnertime, and who is there putting ribs and chicken on the grill but John McCain, standing there cooking for everybody there. He’s just an incredible leader and that spirit never dies in him.
Q: Do you have a favorite Sarah Palin story?
A: We haven’t traveled much with them but have done some joint things. I tell you the very first time she walks in a room you never forget it. There is an immediate charisma. She looks you right in the eye and kind of knocks you out with that personality of hers! She’s a little, tiny woman but she’s got a personality that’s bigger than all outdoors! She’s just fabulous!