McCain’s Wingman: Mark Salter

I now know infinitely more about Mark Salter and his role within the McCain campaign…that is, since reading this article in the Wall Street Journal.

Here’s a brief excerpt, but do yourself a favor and read the whole thing…

Now that Sen. Barack Obama has emerged as the likely Democratic nominee, Mr. Salter is poised to play a large role in a general-election campaign filled with potential land mines, from race issues to Sen. McCain’s age, which is 71. Early signs are that Mr. Salter will urge a feisty campaign — in character for a man who once wrestled a persistent critic of the senator to the floor of a congressional hallway.

In recent days, both the press and the Obama campaign have gotten a taste of Mr. Salter’s hair-trigger response to criticism of the senator or his campaign. Over the weekend, he fired off a three-page email to the editor of Newsweek slamming the newsmagazine for what he said was a “biased” cover story on Sen. Obama that “framed this race exactly as Sen. Obama wants it to be framed.” He threatened to throw the magazine’s reporters off the campaign bus and airplane, according to people familiar with the matter. Mr. Salter says he expressed the campaign’s displeasure and is talking to the publication about future access.

Last Thursday, he came out swinging against Sen. Obama after the Democrat said Sen. McCain was “losing his bearings.” Mr. Salter complained publicly that the Democratic front-runner’s comment was a “not particularly clever way of raising John McCain’s age.” The jab, he said, was “typical of the Obama style of campaigning.”

Here’s a bit from the brief Salter bio that gives some insight into his character…

When ad maker Mark McKinnon wanted to use newly discovered footage taken when Sen. McCain was captured during the Vietnam War, the candidate refused, saying it was exploitative, and that his visible injuries made him look vulnerable. Mr. Salter “was my ace in the hole,” Mr. McKinnon says. “He persuaded John — and he’s the only one who could have.” [Mark Salter]

Similarly, after Sen. McCain was criticized for his remark that economics isn’t his strong suit, policy director Douglas Holtz-Eakin asked him to quit making the comment because opponents were using it against him. The candidate continued until Mr. Holtz-Eakin asked Mr. Salter to intervene, both men recall. Sen. McCain dropped the line and began talking about his longtime experience on the Senate Commerce Committee.

On the campaign trail, Mr. Salter has chased away hecklers. Once, he ran down a man handing out fliers near Sen. McCain’s children. Another time, he took a punch from a POW activist who was hassling Sen. McCain’s staffers, then fought the man to the floor outside the senator’s office until the Capitol police intervened.

Read the rest at the WSJ here…McCain Aide Trains His Sights on Obama” By MONICA LANGLEY


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