This is a rush transcript from "On the Record ," November 13, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: All right, all of us wanted to be behind the scenes of both presidential campaigns. Well, now you get the inside story about Senator McCain's campaign from the best source there is. Earlier, we spoke to Rick Davis, Senator McCain's campaign manager.
VAN SUSTEREN: Rick, thank you very much for joining us again...
RICK DAVIS, MCCAIN CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Thank you.
VAN SUSTEREN: ... To talk about the campaign. Was it fun for you to be the campaign manager for...
DAVIS: Oh, it was incredibly exciting. Look, you know, you hope all your career, if you like politics, wait for a moment like this. And look, I was blessed in 2000. I got to run John's campaign for the primary, and to have another shot at it and to get it as far as we got it, I couldn't be more blessed.
VAN SUSTEREN: Who made the decisions, for instance, what cities to go to? Because we'd get a schedule, maybe we'd be, like, two days out, for Senator McCain or Governor Palin (INAUDIBLE) Who made those decisions, and how soon in advance were they made?
DAVIS: Well, we liked to try and make scheduling decisions, especially in the general election, about a month out. And toward the end of the campaign, you have to leave it a little bit flexible because the states and the cities that you're in play fluctuate almost on a daily basis, from the tracking polls and from the intelligence on the ground. So prior to, you know, let's say October 1, we were able to get plans done, you know, 60, you know, 30 days out.
We had a lot of processes in campaign. You have thousands of people involved in it. You're spending literally hundreds of millions of dollars almost on a monthly basis. And so you set up a process. And we had a scheduling committee that had divisional heads in every office represented there, and we made decisions based on, you know, where we needed to go in each of those minutes.
VAN SUSTEREN: But in some way, it seemed almost like, you know, an organizational nightmare because some of them were made a couple days out, right, towards the end?
DAVIS: Toward the end. Yes. Absolutely.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. So you had to get a venue.
DAVIS: Yes. It was, like, We got to get to Columbus! Yes.
VAN SUSTEREN: And then you'd have to get a venue there.
VAN SUSTEREN: You'd have to get security.
VAN SUSTEREN: You had to have the fire marshal, everybody else.
DAVIS: Oh, yes.
VAN SUSTEREN: I mean, it seemed -- I mean, it doesn't seem -- I mean, if you stop and think of it, there's a lot that has to be done in these campaigns, especially at the end.
DAVIS: It's a massive logistical exercise. On the last day, October 31 and the 1st of November, we literally had several events a day for both candidates, 14 events a day for both -- you know, for the ticket in different cities. And we didn't even know where they were up until about a week out. And so we literally deployed, you know, hundreds of advance people and security folks and all that kind of thing.
And we had great events. And every one of them went off on time. And even Governor Palin -- I mean the last day, she was -- she started on the East Coast, she wound up on the West Coast and overnighted in Alaska and then came back to Arizona. I mean, it was the longest political day of travel in the history of American politics.
VAN SUSTEREN: How often did you talk to Senator McCain, like, in the last month?
DAVIS: Oh, a lot. I mean, you know...
VAN SUSTEREN: More than two or three times a day?
DAVIS: Oh, five or six times a day. Yes. Sure.
VAN SUSTEREN: What were you talking about?
DAVIS: Virtually every stop, you know, what's the latest press breaking, what are the latest public polls, what are our private data saying, what kind of changes do we want to make in the next speech, you know, little ads, what we called toppers, you know, in each of the different sites. So I mean, it was -- it was always plenty to talk about.
VAN SUSTEREN: Who made the hard decisions? I mean, like, we know -- everyone -- there's been a lot of speculation, for instance, about Reverend Wright, why he -- where Senator McCain never brought up Reverend Wright.
DAVIS: Well, that was Senator McCain's decision. And ultimately, you know, everything that's hard usually winds up in Senator McCain's lap. But look, he said right out front, you know, with the very first emergence of Reverend Wright as a political issue, Look, we're just not going to go there. And the campaign honored that. We never made it a political issue. And I'm sure people will debate it forever as to whether or not it was good politics or not, but you know, that's John McCain.
I've been involved with the guy for 10 years, helping to promote his political ambitions. And you know, he's a tough guy to do that because he's the kind of guy who will go into a primary saying, We've got to talk about immigration reform and selling a surge, when neither one of those things were useful to having him get the nomination. But he does it anyway because he always does what he thinks is right, and then the politics will work itself out.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. The night that he accepted the nomination, you got an $84 million check. How -- where did that go? I mean, like, what is it -- how do you make the arrangements? Does it go to your headquarters bank account? I mean...
DAVIS: Yes, actually...
DAVIS: In the old days, actually, a little guy in a green eyeshade handed you a check, but now it's all wire transferred and...
VAN SUSTEREN: Eighty-four million dollars.
DAVIS: Yes, $84 million. And boy, I'll tell you, it goes fast. We probably spent, between the campaign and the RNC, over $325 million in 60 days. It's the largest amount of money ever spent on a presidential campaign, except for one other, Barack Obama's, who outspent us probably by $100 million during that same period of time.
VAN SUSTEREN: Do you remember when you first met Governor Palin?
DAVIS: Yes and...
VAN SUSTEREN: Where was that, and what was that like?
DAVIS: You know, the very first time I ever met her was just a brief introduction during a Governors Association meeting here in Washington about a year out from the election, about, you know, now. And you know, I was very impressed by her. I mean, she, you know, carries herself very well. She's very, you know, outspoken. And you were, like, Wow, this is a real comer in the party. This was long before John McCain won the nomination and went on to pick her as a vice president.
VAN SUSTEREN: After he picked her, though, when is the first time you saw her?
DAVIS: I met up with her in Ohio, literally the day that we announced her as a pick. I was running the operation from Washington, the -- trying to keep it secret during the Democratic convention. And we had people in Alaska, we had people in Arizona, we had people in Ohio, none of whom knew each other, none of whom had any cell phones that worked very well. And you know, it worked out great. We were able to do the surprise we wanted. We didn't step on the Democratic convention. We wanted to stop the momentum that Obama had the day afterwards, and we sure did. I mean, she was a big splash and a huge help for us through the convention.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. She was announced on a Friday, I believe, right?
DAVIS: That's correct.
VAN SUSTEREN: When did you -- when did you get word that she was the nominee?
DAVIS: Well, I'm not going to give away all our little secrets...
VAN SUSTEREN: Oh, come on!
DAVIS: ... How we do these things, but...
DAVIS: She met with John McCain the day before in Arizona, and it was the final ask. And she realized and knew in advance from conversations that I had had with her that she was either going to go back to Alaska from that meeting or she was going to go to Ohio. I couldn't preempt the conversation. And it turns out she went to Ohio.
And we had a team in Alaska that if John offered her the job, that they were going to put her family on an airplane, which they did, and fly directly to Alaska -- or to Ohio from Alaska. And I think the greatest story was Todd Palin, who was handling the family at the time, didn't even tell them why they were leaving. He sort of made up this story about it being their wedding anniversary and they were going to meet up. And they were boarding this private plane. And it was all very mysterious. He took away their cell phones.
And they showed up, and one of our top guys in the campaign walked in a room -- they were in this kind of seedy little hotel near the airport where they landed privately outside of the city, and walked in and said, you know, Your mom has just been offered the job of vice president on the Republican ticket. And that's the first they heard of it.
VAN SUSTEREN: That's the first the kids heard of it?
VAN SUSTEREN: In terms of...
DAVIS: The next day, history was made.
VAN SUSTEREN: How did you find out about it?
DAVIS: Talking to John.
VAN SUSTEREN: I mean, but did he call you on the phone or were you in Arizona?
DAVIS: He called me on the phone. I told him, I said, After your meeting, you've got to call me and let me know whether she's flying back to Alaska or whether she's coming to Ohio. And literally, they had met in Sedona, his retreat outside Sedona, and called me as soon as he got in the car and said, you know, Bring her to Ohio. She's the one.
VAN SUSTEREN: Is that blunt, Bring her to Ohio? Is it...
DAVIS: Oh, it's very -- look...
DAVIS: There's never any confusion with John McCain. He tells you right where he is.
VAN SUSTEREN: And in terms of -- I won't ask the names, but who made the calls to the other people that, you know, maybe, Better luck next time, I mean, the other candidates?
DAVIS: Oh, the senator did. You know, he...
VAN SUSTEREN: That's a horrible thing to have to do...
DAVIS: It's a tough job being a candidate for president. I mean, there -- not all of them are fun games. But you know, look, these were all terrific people, and they all went through a great deal of effort, you know, with the vetting process. And you know, it's a tough process, and every one of them did it with a smile and a thank you. And I couldn't imagine a better group of people to have vetted.
VAN SUSTEREN: Fun overall? Fun?
DAVIS: Oh, I'd do it again in a minute. Well, no, I -- don't tell my wife that.
VAN SUSTEREN: Don't tell your wife. (INAUDIBLE) wife the other night.
DAVIS: Yes. She wouldn't let me, I think. But look, it's so great. It's the greatest arena in American politics, and I can't imagine doing anything more fun for the last couple of years.
VAN SUSTEREN: Have you met President-elect Obama?
DAVIS: I met him at the debates, saw him there. And you know, very impressive guy, and we wish him luck.
VAN SUSTEREN: Thank you very much.
DAVIS: Thank you.
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