ABOARD THE McCAIN BUS IN N.H. -- The big event on the Republicans' schedule Sunday is the joint English/Spanish-language debate in Coral Gables, Fla., hosted by Univision. And the night before the forum, McCain shared his secret for dealing with these debates.
McCain, who's known for his one-liners at these events, says he doesn't come with jokes that are pre-written. One of his classics is from the October 21 Fox News debate - the joke about the Woodstock concert of 1969. "Now my friends, I wasn't there. I am sure it was a cultural and pharmaceutical event. I was, I was tied up at the time," he quipped, referring to his time as a POW in Vietnam. He eventually turned this line into a campaign ad.
"The thing I've learned in these debates is that the best thing to do is to go with the ... flow with it. Don't try to have a joke or prepared comment. Pay attention to what the others are saying and when it comes to you try to get in the stream of what the discussion is about"
Pundits have pointed out an improved performance by McCain at the last few debates and he credits that to lessons he learned in earlier debates (this is his 12th debate since the first GOP forum back in May).
"In the first few debates, it was my own fault, but when you have 8 or 9 people, you can't wait to get your comment in, so you have a tendency to fire hose it." He added that when his turn would finally come around, he spouted out so much information so fast, that he would stumble and look hesitant, "and I finally just said, look go out there and when it comes your turn play close attention to what the others are saying."
To keep his nerves in chedk, McCain says he likes to hold a campaign event just prior (today, he has a 1pm town hall meeting in Miami) instead of waiting around his hotel room for the debate to begin.
Another pre-debate ritual for McCain, who is never far from a cup o' joe, is to limit his coffee intake. For the last three debates he says it has helped him to stop drinking coffee a few hours before he hits the stage.