PHOENIX _ John McCain’s presidential run ended Tuesday night on the lawn of a swank resort hotel with a gracious touch of statesmanship.
“The American people have spoken, and they have spoken clearly,” the defeated Republican presidential candidate said.
“Senator Obama has achieved a great thing for himself and his country. I applaud him for it,” McCain told supporters on the lawn of the Arizona Biltmore Hotel. “This is an historic election, and I recognize the special significance it has for African-Americans and the special pride that must be theirs tonight. . . .
“I urge all Americans who supported me to join me in not just congratulating him, but offering our next president our good will and earnest effort to find ways to come together, to find the necessary compromises to bridge our differences and help restore our prosperity, defend our security in a dangerous world and leave our children and grandchildren a stronger, better country than we inherited.”
“I pledge to him tonight to do all in my power to help him lead us through the many challenges we face,” McCain said. “Today, I was a candidate for the highest office in the country I love so much, and tonight, I remain her servant.”
He also said that “it’s natural tonight to feel some disappointment,” and added “though we fell short, the failure is mine, not yours.”
Election night at McCain campaign headquarters was a split scene. As the Arizona senator gave his concession address outdoors, supporters in the ballroom yards away stood stunned as they watched the results and listened to him speak. Some booed when he congratulated Obama and stood silently as he praised the Illinois senator for his victory.
Patti Krause, 47, of Phoenix, watched McCain’s concession speech in the ballroom and confessed that she’s disappointed and “nervous about what happens over the next four years.”
However, she said, “It’s my responsibility to support the president, and I pray for him.”
Her friend Patti Stoltz muttered under her breath as McCain spoke and didn’t hide her bitter disappointment at Tuesday night’s results.
“I’m just sad. People voted for the wrong reason. They voted for history, not the right person for the country,” she said.
Still, Stoltz said, “he’s our commander in chief.”
“We will always pray for him and his family,” she continued. “No matter who wins, it’s God’s will. That’s what everyone needs to remember.”
McCain and his campaign aides put on a brave face and offered a barrage of scenarios on how he could beat Obama in the closing days, but they knew it was over long before McCain trudged out to give his concession speech.
The closing days of McCain’s campaign were a nostalgia tour of sorts. On Sunday, he ignored New Hampshire polls that showed him trailing badly and traveled to Peterborough _ where he held one of his first town hall meetings in 2000 _ to give the last one of his 2008 campaign, perhaps the last of his political career.
On Monday, his last full day of campaigning, McCain flew more than 3,700 miles through three time zones to seven states, a tribute of sorts to a stamina that became legendary from his dusk-till-dawn Straight Talk Express campaigning style.
McCain had a merry band of mavericks with him on his final tour to keep the mood light: former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, independent Democrat Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., always ready with a folksy story, a quick quip or a stiff upper lip.
McCain stopped at a series of rallies on his final trek, some of them lightly attended. In Tampa, Fla., he presided over a rally that had barely 1,000 people on a grassy field across the street from William James Stadium, a 66,321-seat NFL site that Obama could have filled easily.
McCain, nonetheless, was animated. He beamed when he encountered huge crowds at an airport rally on the Tennessee-Virginia border, and in an amphitheater in Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid’s political backyard near Las Vegas.
“The Mac is back!” McCain proclaimed in stop after stop Monday.
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But tears began to flow at the tour’s last stop, Prescott, Ariz. McCain’s wife, Cindy, began to choke up as she introduced her husband at a 1 a.m. rally on the same courthouse steps where Barry Goldwater launched his political career.
McCain made his last campaign flight Tuesday morning, stopping in Colorado and New Mexico, both states he would lose. On the way back to Arizona, campaign officials pulled back the brown curtain that separates McCain’s section of the plane from the press section and McCain spoke to his fellow travelers, some of whom had covered his campaign for two years.
“We’ve had a great ride, a great experience, and it’s full of memories that we will always treasure, including the last one up there in Colorado, where people were so warm,” he said without taking questions. “And the enthusiasm, as you have seen at rallies, has been quite remarkable and quite heartwarming. . . . So anyway, we’ve had a great time. I wish you all every success and look forward to being with you in the future. Thanks very much.”