From NBC's Carrie Dann
When John McCain sat down with the Des Moines Register's editorial board before the Iowa caucuses, he ended up earning a glowing endorsement that kicked his momentum up a notch in a state that has seldom done him many favors. In its eleventh-hour endorsement, the paper lauded his honor, his maverick status, and his "moral authority," even as it fleetingly warned that "he can be hot-tempered, a trait that's not helpful in conducting diplomacy."
That sentiment is taking on a new twist today. Video clips of McCain's brusque and sometimes sarcastic exchanges during his sit-down yesterday with the Iowa paper's board are getting a lot of play, with cheery Democrats citing the video as evidence of McCain's short temper and penchant for sarcasm.
In the meeting, McCain was particularly short when questioned about the governing experience offered by first-term Alaska governor Sarah Palin. "You and I just have a fundamental disagreement, and I am so happy the American people seem to be siding with me," he replied when a member of the board suggested that Palin lacks experience.
Further questioned, McCain's tone grew more annoyed. He suggested that Palin does not need the blessing of Republican intelligentsia to appeal to everyday voters. "If there's a Georgetown cocktail party person who, quote, calls himself a conservative who doesn't like her, good luck. I don't dismiss him," he said. "I think the American people have overwhelmingly shown their approval."
When another member of the board indicated that McCain's careers in the military and in civil service meant that he had never been without a cushy health care plan, the Arizona senator astringently referred to his years as a prisoner of war, saying that "I did go for a period of time when the health care wasn't very good."
McCain, whose Iowa campaign trips last summer were characterized by freewheeling "Straight Talk" sessions with the dwindling corps of reporters who followed his ailing campaign, vigorously took issue with the Register editors when his reputation for honest campaigning was questioned. "I have always had 100 percent, absolute truth," he replied. "That's been my life, and putting my country first. I'll match that record with anyone and an assertion that I have ever done otherwise, I take strong exception to."
Asked specifically about the McCain campaign's assertion that Obama supported sex education for kindergarteners, a claim described as deceptive by most independent sources, McCain responded, "He did, he did."
"We have the documentation," he told the board impatiently. "I'll be glad to provide it to you."
McCain lags in the polls in Iowa, where Barack Obama engineered an unprecedented ground game during the caucuses and won the support of Iowans who cherish the state's status as an early kingmaker in the nominating process. His fourth-place finish in the caucuses was not unexpected; he did not curry much favor with the state's evangelical population, and his stalwart opposition to ethanol subsidies has never won him many Iowan friends.
*** UPDATE *** In its sum-up piece, the Register calls McCain's performance "crisp and deliberate."
MORE : "Compared to earlier visits, however, when he was a long-shot caucus candidate and more relaxed, McCain on Tuesday was serious, on message and in no mood to be challenged. He was often quick to respond by challenging the premise of a question."