From NBC's Abby Livingston
Almost without fail, the most interesting part of candidate events on the trail are the question-and-answer sessions. As a means to get a candidate off his or her stump, it can be fascinating, dangerous, scandalous or, as when a child asked Giuliani about extraterrestrial life, just plain weird.
It can also be annoying. Instead of asking a candidate questions, prospective voters or caucus-goers sometimes deliver long-winded speeches of their own rather than asking an actual question. Yet, one candidate actually solicits such situations, and that has shaped his policy. After McCain delivers his stump, he often not only invites questions but also comments. He respectfully engages with the speaker and promises to study up on the commenter's position.
Most prominent is immigration. Even as late as yesterday, when he was asked about immigration, the issue that wounded his campaign, McCain politely answered, "I got the message, my friends," as he has often said of late. But he did not stop there. After he explained his position, he actually asked his inquirer, "Do you have a follow up?"
And McCain follows up as well. Climate change has evolved into a more and more conspicuous part of his stump. Often it is the centerpiece of his speech, rivaling the Iraq war in McCain intensity. While speaking before employees of the Timberland Company in New Hampshire, McCain addressed the issue. "What I really want to talk to you about for just a minute is your commitment to the environment and mine," McCain began. "I won't take long because I want to hear from you. This is what it's all about is me hearing from you as much as you hearing from me.
"But in 2000, when I campaigned here across this state, in town hall meeting after town hall meeting, young people would stand up and say, 'Senator McCain, what are you going to do about global warming or climate change? What are you going to do?' I'll tell ya, I didn't know anything about it. I'd heard it. I'm not totally unaware. But I went back, after I lost...I was chairman of the Commerce Committee, and I started holding hearings...I learned that climate change is real, my friends."
In contrast to 2000, McCain can sound like a card-carrying member of the Sierra Club. Huckabee is the only other Republican candidate who comes anywhere near matching McCain's zeal for fighting global warming. McCain quotes Teddy Roosevelt on conservation, advocates for alternative forms of energy (including nuclear) and brags that he is known as "the Grand Canyon's best friend."
Indeed, an interesting change in environment.