John McCain had mocked Democrat Barack Obama all week as so cocky that he is already "measuring the drapes" in the White House Oval Office. The Republican's audience usually booed on cue.
On Saturday, McCain found new ammunition in a New York Times article that said a member of Obama's transition team, John Podesta, already had drafted a sample inaugural address for the Democrat. Obama aides quickly pointed out that Podesta actually had written the speech when he was still working for rival Hillary Rodham Clinton's doomed campaign -- and had published his offering in a book last summer.
Addressing a rally in historic Mesilla, in southern New Mexico, on Saturday, McCain did not mention when the speech was written and happily twisted the news to his advantage.
"We just learned from a newspaper today that Sen. Obama's inaugural address is already written," McCain declared, as a crowd of about 1,200 responded with jeers. "I'm not making it up.
"My friends, when I pull this off, I have a request for my opponent," McCain continued, a broad grin etched on his face. "I want him to save that manuscript of his inaugural address and donate it to the Smithsonian. And they can put it right next to the Chicago paper that says 'Dewey defeats Truman.' "
That would be the famously premature 1948 early edition of the Chicago Daily Tribune announcing in a banner headline that Republican Thomas E. Dewey had beaten incumbent Democrat Harry S. Truman.
"I'm a little old-fashioned about these things," McCain added with a laugh. "But I prefer to let the voters weigh in before presuming the outcome."
Obama's campaign did not laugh back. "While this charge is completely false and there is no draft of an inaugural address for Sen. Obama, the last thing we need is a candidate like John McCain who just plans on rereading George Bush's," campaign spokesman Bill Burton snorted in an e-mail.
How about Day 2 for Sarah Palin?
Here's the latest from the "with friends like these . . . " department: Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut was asked if he believed Sarah Palin would be ready from Day One to be president.
The "Day One" phrase made the question a bit of a set-up, but Lieberman bit (eagerly). He replied, "Thank God, she's not going to have to be president from Day One, because [John] McCain's going to be alive and well."
The Democrat-turned-independent-turned-McCain-booster quickly added that "if, God forbid," Palin at some point would have to assume the top job, "she'll be ready. She's had executive experience. She's smart. And she will have had on-the-job training."
In a McCain administration, there's a good chance much of that instruction would come from Lieberman.
Excerpted from The Times' political blog Top of the Ticket, at latimes.com/topofthe ticket.
Times staff writer Bob Drogin contributed.