2:20 pm: The TV crews are set up, and Sen. John McCain is set to arrive at 3 pm for his only New York appearance before Super Tuesday’s madness. Two canines are circulating, sniffing press bags. The Grand Central Vanderbilt concourse is being cordoned off, and travelers outside the press corral push up to its boundary, gawking at the row of cameras aimed at them and a solitary microphone.
2:28 pm: U.S. Rep. Peter King mills in the background. Every time a reporter approaches to ask him a question, his phone rings mysteriously. Magic!
2:31 pm: A reporter runs up to the press circle and shouts to his photographer. “We got Lieberman and Giuliani and the governor of Florida comin’ out in a row!” A few other photographers pause, arch their eyebrows and turn back to fiddle with their equipment.
3:01 pm: McCain’s 20-something staffers arrive in pinstriped pantsuits, bearing dozens of “handmade” posters scrawled in magic marker:
“Women for McCain”
“Courage honor country MCCAIN”
“Vote para McCain”
“I’m a MCCAINIAC!”
The bomb dogs sniff those, too.
3:10 pm: No signs of a senator. “He was an hour late in Jersey” at a prior engagement, yawns a photographer who just sauntered in. He says McCain, Lindsey Graham, Tom Kean, Phil Gramm and Charlie Crist were all there, “They were tellin’ each other how great they were,” the photographer says.
3:12 pm: “He’ll be here at 3:30,” says a reporter with one ear obscured by an iPhone. Pray that the sign holders’ arms hold out that long.
3:16 pm: The staffers have just noticed a comely, long-haired brunette carrying a baby in a front harness. She gets whisked to the front of the sign-carryers’ line. The baby gets its bottle.
3:20 pm: Holy crap! Is that Henry Kissinger?
3:21 pm: My mistake; it’s a third bomb-sniffing dog.
3:36 pm: As the media grows restless, a minor ruckus breaks out. A dozen or so Clinton supporters have infiltrated the cheerers’ ranks and unfurled a 10-foot “Hillary” banner. The press guys laugh, suddenly energized, and grab their cameras. Snapping shutter lenses drown out the McCain supporters’ catcalls.
3:39 pm: Whose sign-carrying arms will last longer? The McCain folks are spotting their enemies in the crowd a 30-minute handicap.
3:40 pm: The McCain staffers have a solution: get more signs! Pronto!
3:45 pm: Overheard from a sympathetic photographer: “There’s one Obama sign back there!” He coos. “Poor guy! Poor little guy!”
3:52 pm: The staffers try vainly to get a cheer going among their “supporters.” In the back, a lone female voice squeaks, “Nixon for President!”
3:55 pm: The grand entrance: McCain, his wife Cindy, Peter King, George Pataki, Rudy Giuliani, and – is that another bomb dog?
3:56 pm: No, my mistake: it’s Joe Lieberman.
3:57 pm: Pataki speaks for two minutes. “We just had a wonderful Super Sunday for those of us in New York,” he quips. “Let’s have a wonderful Super Tuesday.”
4:02 pm: Rudy… Giuliani… Can’t shut up. Five minutes, and even McCain is starting to lose focus. “America is under siege, we know that, maybe in New York better than anyone else,” Rudy says. Few of the press corps are still writing at this point.
4:04 pm: Finally, it’s McCain’s turn. He speaks about Rudy, and 9/11, and the 2001 World Series. I look over and realize that Al D’amato has suddenly materialized out of nowhere between Lieberman and King. Ninja!
4:05 pm: McCain wants to secure our borders. “America again will be the greatest experiment in the history of the world…” McCain says.
4:08 pm: It’s over. McCain breaks for the exits while Rudy and Pataki confuse the press. I ask Pataki why he took so long to endorse McCain. “I never intended to do anything while the mayor was still in the race,” he says.
Wait – there was a mayor in the race?