Evan Smith: Last summer every reporter in the world, including me, left John McCain for dead. What happened?
Mark McKinnon: Well, he wasn’t six feet under, but he was five feet under. I went into the office at that time and it was like a neutron bomb had hit. [The campaign] had gone from 140-plus staff to 22. And, you know, to be honest with you, I and others, in our wildest dreams of infinite possibilities, never thought there was a way this could happen.
ES: All the people I talked to who were supporting him would say, “Just wait. It looks bad, but just wait.”
MM: We believed that because it was a multicandidate field, nobody was likely to run away with it. That decisions would break late and fast. That people hadn’t left McCain because they didn’t like or respect him; they’d left him because they thought he was no longer viable. And it was for a lot of reasons, but primarily because of immigration. Immigration dropped him twenty points in a month, and the money dried up overnight. That’s really what did it. Some of it was Iraq, but in the Republican primaries, it was mostly immigration. So our view was, “Hang