James Fallows verbalizes a thought I had when watching John McCain’s Saturday Night Live skit this weekend: John McCain knows he’s going to lose, and he’s accepted it. I watched, and it was the McCain everybody loves – the Straight Talking, Arizona Barbecuing, Al Smith dinner version of John McCain. The John McCain that Jon Stewart so likes and respects.
I thought I saw a sort of resigned cheerfulness in him. Like him or not, John McCain has done, in his mind, everything he could to win this election, and it hasn’t been enough. Sometimes, the other team is better.
My clue was that he allowed Tina Fey to savage Sarah Palin one more time.
Fallows had a slightly different take:
…[N]o candidate who thought he had a prayer of winning would have appeared on this show.
For a candidate coming from behind, every second of the final week of the campaign is like a second in cardiac-surgery operating theater, with absolutely no room for fooling around or wasting time, money, or effort that could be used to sway that last crucial vote. (Think: the last days of Gore-Bush in 2000.)
For a candidate who thinks he’s ahead, and might actually become president, inevitably there’s a tone of new seriousness right at the end: What we’ve been working for years is within our grasp, let’s not screw this up, and let’s be sobered by how different the world is going to look in a few days.
So if McCain really thought he had a chance of catching up, he wouldn’t have wasted time on an audience that might repair his reputation among liberals and journalists but does him no good with the crucial swing votes.
This is one reason why I predicted yesterday that his concession Tuesday night would be both warm and graceful, and make people think back to the old McCain – the McCain who appeared before us, briefly, this Saturday night.