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Draper Lifts the Veil on the McCain Camp’s Inner Sanctum

I never got around to plugging Robert Draper’s absolutely must-read deconstruction of the McCain campaign for the New York Times Magazine. Be sure to check it out this weekend, if you haven’t already. It might be the best article written about the campaign this cycle.

This window into the campaign’s inner workings — how it reached the decision to “suspend the campaign” to deal with the financial crisis — is worth meditating on:

[McCain campaign strategist Steve] Schmidt in particular was a believer in these kinds of defining moments. The smartest bit of political wisdom he ever heard was dispensed by George W. Bush one spring day at the White House residence in 2004, at a time when his re-election effort was not going especially well. The strategists at the meeting — including Schmidt, who was directing the Bush campaign’s rapid-response unit — fretted over their candidate’s sagging approval ratings and the grim headlines about the war in Iraq. Only Bush appeared thoroughly unworried. He explained to them why, polls notwithstanding, voters would ultimately prefer him over his opponent, John Kerry.

There’s an accidental genius to the way Americans pick a president, Schmidt remembers Bush saying that day. By the end of it all, a candidate’s true character is revealed to the American people.

If Sen. John McCain loses next month, Draper has already explained why. If he somehow manages to pull it out, this piece will be studied for clues as to how McCain did it.

And National Review’s Rich Lowry reports that he “talked to two people in McCain world the last few days who call the whole thing ‘disgraceful’” — so you know it’s got to be good.

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