Election 2008

McCain Campaigned Hard But Failed In Pa., Ohio

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Despite an impressive ground effort in some states, Republican John McCain lost to Democrat Barack Obama. Jon Seaton, John McCain's regional campaign manager, was in charge of two key states: Ohio and Pennsylvania. He says in the end, those two states were tough nuts to crack.


The many people who tried to get John McCain elected yesterday include the man we'll talk with next. Jon Seaton is regional campaign manager for the McCain campaign. He was in charge of two key states, Ohio and Pennsylvania, both of which went for Barack Obama. Good morning.

Mr. JON SEATON (Regional Campaign Manager for Ohio and Pennsylvania, McCain Campaign): Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: You told us earlier in the week that you sensed some movement toward McCain. What do you think happened?

Mr. SEATON: Well, you know, I think it was obviously a tough environment. I think that John McCain really campaigned hard right to the last moment. It was a tough path. He gave everything he had. And it was really an honor to work for him.

INSKEEP: I'm remembering that you told us that you had actually made more contacts to voters in the state of Pennsylvania in 2008 than the Bush campaign did in 2004, and that was one of the great ground campaigns on record. And you actually contacted more voters. It sounds like you reached a lot of voters who just weren't interested in what John McCain had to say.

Mr. SEATON: We talked to a lot of voters, and we had a very, very extensive grassroots program. We had extremely talented staff and a committed group of volunteers. And you know, again, in a tough environment and a tough election, not everything is going to go our way. We'll live to fight another day. We're very proud of the operation that we put in place. And much more importantly, we're very proud of John McCain.

INSKEEP: Is this the moment to look back and wonder if it was wise to spend so much time on Pennsylvania when surveys suggested it was solid for Obama?

Mr. SEATON: There's going to be a lot of people who are going to second guess this campaign. I will never be one of them. I think that John McCain ran a very good race. I think that John McCain is a true American hero and patriot. And I'm just - there are a lot of people who are going to second guess things. You can go to a number of cocktail parties in Washington, D.C. I'm not going to be one of those people. I think it was a good campaign, and we're very proud of what we were able to do.

INSKEEP: Well, let's put it in forward terms, if we can. Let's say that since you're missing the cocktail party, you're out working, and somebody hires you to win a campaign in Ohio or Pennsylvania. What lessons would you take away from what happened in 2008?

Mr. SEATON: I think that, you know, obviously, people are really hurting right now. And to the extent that we can connect with everyday Americans, everyday Ohioans and Pennsylvanians and explain to them how it's our vision and our belief in, you know, the issues and what we're going to do for the economy to get this thing moving again, I think that to the extent that you can convince voters that you have the best candidate who can do that, you'll be successful. This was clearly a campaign that came down to the economy. And the incumbent party is always going to struggle if the economy is struggling. And in this case, it was. So I think that the candidates who are going to be able to best, kind of, articulate a vision for the economy are the ones who are going to ultimately be successful.

INSKEEP: It seems pretty plain that Democrats looked at their defeat in 2004 and said Republicans are much better getting out their voters, and we need to get better. We need to learn from this drubbing. Do you think that Republicans will look at what Barack Obama did in 2008 and find things that they can learn from that?

Mr. SEATON: I think every campaign, you learn. And certainly the losing campaigns are going to learn maybe a little bit more. I've certainly taken a lot away from this. We'll analyze what happened. We'll analyze the results and the data, and hopefully come back a stronger party.

INSKEEP: Can you think of just one specific thing, however small, that you think you've learned from the other side?

Mr. SEATON: I think that they clearly had a very well-disciplined and massive operation, and they executed their plan almost flawlessly. And I think they should be commended for that.

INSKEEP: Well, Jon Seaton of the McCain campaign, this is a day when you could have been excused for taking no calls. So I really appreciate you taking ours.

Mr. SEATON: It's a pleasure to talk to you. Thanks.

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