This is the man at the absolute center of Republican politics.
The guy to his right is U.S. Senator John McCain.
Senator McCain was in New Hampshire yesterday, part of a four-day campaign swing through the state that vaulted him onto the national stage in 1999-2000.
Our good friend Jon Martin of The Politico, live blogging from the Trail, has his stories here. The Union Leader has their story here.
Crib Notes: McCain's Saturday events were great. Great crowds. Great buzz. Great Straight Talk.
In fact, the events were so great that paid Giuliani staffer Jim Wieczorek was in the audience at the Lebanon event (much like paid Giuliani staffer Chris Wood was at a Cindy McCain event in Keene last month).
Hey, when your candidate isn't coming to visit you have to get your Presidential fix somehow.
The Straight Talking Senator arrived in Manchester Friday night in the middle of a blizzard that had already sidelined Obama and Dodd's campaigns.
According to a person on the flight, McCain told his pilot, "We are landing in New Hampshire."
And they did. Safely.
Which allowed us the opportunity to board the Straight Talk Express for some quality time with McCain during the Milford-Manchester leg of Saturday's campaign events.
To be fair, GreenMountainPolitics1 wasn't the only (quasi) news outlet jawing with the Senator.
Newsweek, AP, Carl Cameron of Fox News and a crew from CBS's 60 Minutes were also there while former GOP Chairman Steve Duprey and media advisor Mark McKinnon helped keep the conversation moving.
Keeping an eye on everything was national deputy communications director Danny "Insanely Dedicated" Diaz who looked fresh as a daisy after spending the previous 12 hours driving from DC to New Hampshire in a night blizzard.
Not bad company for the company we were in.
When we stepped onto The Bus in Milford John Weaver told us, "Clacker, you recognize that we are running the most open and accessible Presidential campaign ever?"
Then Weaver smirked (much the way we have smirked writing about him and his boss over the last 5 months), clapped us on the shoulder and moved us along towards the the Senator in back.
But Weaver wasn't being funny. McCain is running the most open and accessible campaign ever. Everything about the campaign screams "ACCESS!".
We got 50 minutes of the Senator's time (50 minutes!). And we're just a humble Blogspot blog.
Not to waste our chance (or his time) we shied away from "Gotcha!" horse race questions. How many times can we hear (or can we write about) how Team McCain is going to respond to McCain's age/Romney's flip-flops/Giuliani not being a conservative/March 31 numbers/Iraq polling before we (he?) want to jump out a window?
So we didn't bother. We asked the Senator other questions.
(Editor's note: We are NOT reporters and we DON'T have editors. While we did everything in our power to make sure that the following quotes attributed to Senator McCain are accurate, if something looks totally out of whack please have the professional decency to check with his campaign, the AP, Newsweek or Fox before you blast it up on Drudge).
We asked McCain about GAO head David Walker's (and Pete Peterson's) grave concern that America is headed towards fiscal ruin.
"No question there are tough choices to make," said McCain. "Did you notice that I quoted Peter Peterson at the last town meeting?" We nodded and he went on, "We need to get spending under control, we need to fix our entitlement programs and we need to make sure that we can pay for our tax cuts. Of course I favor tax cuts, but we need to make sure that we can pay for them."
We asked him about Zbigniew Brezezinski's call to restore America's diplomatic role in the world.
McCain responded, "I would work with the Europeans on halting global climate change, I would close Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, I would continue to work closely with NATO in Afghanistan and I would follow Ronald Reagan's example of humility."
Following up on his global climate change answer we asked McCain when he first became aware that climate change was "real" and was a "more serious problem" than people were giving it credit for.
McCain thought about it for a minute and answered, "It was sometime during 1999 or 2000 campaign. A couple of kids showed up at a town meeting and asked me about it. It was like the hemp question I kept getting, I didn't really know anything about it. After the campaign I went back and I started to read more about global warming. Then I held hearings about the impact of global warming in my Commerce Committee. That's when I knew."
A light moment occurred when the Senator was asked about how the Information Age is changing Presidential campaigns.
"Well, I'm certainly not going to close myself off," McCain said. "You've got to be able to have fun and let people ask their questions. Yes, there will be some times where I put foot in mouth when some website..."
At this moment Diaz's eyes widen slightly and he starts trying to get the Senator's attention while (subtly) pointing at us.
McCain continues, "When some website gets a hold of something that I've said that's stupid or some Blogger starts writings something..."
At this point Diaz is no longer subtle and is now waving at the Senator, who ignores him.
McCain concludes, "Some Blogger writes something that isn't true and there is no accountability and the next thing anyone knows it's out there moving around the Internet as fact."
We know a grand entrance when we see it and so we said, "Actually Senator we're from GreenMountainPolitics1, which is a New Hampshire Primary Blog."
The good Senator, without missing a beat, stuck out his hand and growled in a most good natured way, "Oh yeah, how did you get on here you little jerk?"
And GreenMountainPolitics1, without missing a beat, growled right back, "Diaz let us on!" and shook the Senator's hand.
What a day!