McCain Looks Ahead

60 Minutes' Scott Pelley Interviews The Presumptive GOP Presidential Candidate

It is an immutable law of American politics that the candidate with the most money wins the nomination. But Tuesday that ended when John McCain, nearly broke at one point, became, in effect, the Republican nominee. The life of John McCain is the story of one near-death experience after another, both literally and in terms of his career. How appropriate that he hails from a town called Phoenix.

Tuesday night in Dallas marked a historic comeback for a campaign that had been considered dead, finished. McCain claimed the nomination at the end of an exhausting and emotional day.

60 Minutes correspondent Scott Pelley met the senator and his wife, Cindy, after his speech.

"About four months ago, the polls showed you coming in fourth in New Hampshire. You were down to your last $50,000. Your opponents were out-spending you massively and tonight you're the party's nominee. What is it about you that got you here?" Pelley asked.

"I think it shows that in America anything is possible. I think hard work, I think telling people the truth. But tonight I'm obviously very happy and very humbled by having had the ability to get this nomination," McCain said.

"As of about an hour ago you became the leader of the Republican Party, a party that you have sometimes been at odds with," Pelley remarked.

"From time to time," McCain agreed.

Asked where he's going to lead the party, the senator told Pelley, "We have to re-energize the party, we have to expand the base, we have to appeal to the independents and we have to go out and get those Reagan Democrats and there's a whole new generation of them. We got our work cut out for us."

The next day he accepted an endorsement that cuts both ways: President Bush is popular with conservatives, but, overall, he has the lowest approval ratings since Nixon and Carter.

"The United States is going to be in Iraq for years to come. Afghanistan is not going well. Osama bin Laden is at large. And the economy is slipping into recession. How do you make a case for a third Republican term?" Pelley asked McCain.

"I can make a case that less government, lower taxes, less regulation, safer America is what I can give America. But I don't underestimate the size of the challenge," McCain replied.

"Senator Obama calls you a genuine American hero who represents the politics of yesterday," Pelley remarked.

"Yeah, that's a pretty good line, I think. And I understand that. And my response, of course, is that I have the experience and the knowledge and the background to make the judgments that are necessary to move this nation forward and make it safe," McCain said.

"You're saying that Senator Obama doesn't have the experience? That he's too naïve to be president?" Pelley asked.

"No, I am saying that I have that. And if the phone rings at 3:00a.m., I think the American people would want me to answer it first," McCain replied.

But no one had expected him to be around to take that call. Moderates didn't like McCain's support for the surge in Iraq; conservatives didn't like his plan for citizenship for illegal immigrants. Contributions dried up. Before New Hampshire, he burned through a $3 million loan he had secured with a life insurance policy.

Asked if that was the darkest moment, McCain told Pelley, "There were so many. It's hard to pick one out."