LAS VEGAS — Apparently, the homestretch of this year's presidential campaign runs parallel with the Strip here.
As Senator John McCain marches through a final push in key swing states, his 23-year-old daughter, Meghan, is rubbing shoulders with punk-rock royalty at the Hard Rock Café in Las Vegas. Meghan has turned up alongside Johnny Ramone's widow Linda to thank campaign workers in this hotly contested western state. Nevada is a key battleground state, after all ... and Linda assures us that being a Republican is very punk rock, so it all makes sense. (Plus, Meghan is a die-hard Ramones fan, even stealing her first kiss to one of their songs.) So while Senator McCain and running mate Sarah Palin continue their final push through Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida, Meghan is on the western flank.
"It's just a good way for me to say hi to people while they kick back and have a drink at the end of the day," McCain said.
It's a role that fits well in her comfort zone — despite a year in the spotlight, she's still nervous speaking to large crowds ("I've got to give it up to my girl, Chelsea Clinton. She's the one who rocked that, not me," she said), and prefers one-on-one time with supporters. And she's logged a lot of it over the past 18 months while hitting the trail with her father — a long, strange trip that's been captured on her blog in all its giddy, gory and usually sleep-deprived glory. There are behind-the-scenes photos and videos of life on the road — Straight Talk shenanigans, hotel room hijinks and quiet moments when the candidate is simply "dad."
"I've had such an amazing experience, and I've gotten to live the life of a political rock star," she said, looking back. "It's been so amazing. I'm so grateful."
Amid the parade of snapshots, playlists and personal stories that populate her blog, Meghan has also published a children's book ("My Dad, John McCain"), palled around with Heidi Montag and done time on "Larry King Live," "The Tonight Show," "The Today Show" and "The View." She's also made the leap from registered independent to card-carrying Republican, and become one of the hardest working members of her father's campaign (quite a change from when MTV News first met Meghan, almost exactly a year ago, on the campus of South Carolina's Clemson University).
"I thought Hillary [Clinton] was going to be the nominee," Meghan said of her initial expectations. "A lot of people thought [Mitt] Romney was going to be our nominee. Nothing has turned out the way I thought it would be, except I knew my father could pull it out."
No, little has gone according to script in this election year, so the campaign (and the blog) that were expected to fizzle out long ago are marching on. Meghan's week includes more TV, radio and college appearances before meeting up with her father for a series of rallies. "We're continuing to get the message out, and we're giving back to the people who've given up so much for this campaign," she said.
"It's not over. It's nowhere near over," she declared.
And, of course, all of it will be fodder for her blog. "I love the blog and I love the people I meet and I have really great friends here with me," she said. "It's been the most liberating experience of my life. ... I wanted to be a music journalist back in the day. I wanted to work for Rolling Stone and be the next Hunter Thompson. But I've kind of gone about it a different way."
It's been a remarkable experience for Meghan, one that she's not eager to let go. She admits that she gets emotional when thinking about how close this trip is to its end. "I've been doing this for a year and four months, right after I graduated college. Living on a bus for that long is a long time. I can't believe it's almost over. ... I'm going to have to manage a band or something after this so I can stay on the road," she joked.
There has been disappointment, however, especially when encountering indifference during an election season offering up what she calls "two great candidates."
"I don't know what's going to inspire you if these two candidates don't," she said.
And, of course, there have been the lessons that this unique race has taught us about gender issues. "I'm disappointed in how the media treated Senator Clinton," she said. "I think it's a shame. I think how they treat Sarah is also terrible. My mother, Mrs. Obama, myself ... politics is a rough place for women. ... I hope for more. I think that Senator Clinton and Governor Palin have broken a lot of barriers, and I hope that will continue in the future.
"I think that a lot of male reporters have issues with interviewing powerful women," she added. "It says a lot more about the media than it does about the public."
But the disappointments have been few. For Meghan, seeing her father's success has been overwhelming at times. "I cried at the [Republican National] Convention — backstage and onstage — when I was watching him. My mom was pregnant with me at the '84 convention, so it kind of came full circle."
And the success of her blog, which Meghan calls "my baby," has been an unexpected thrill as well. "I've totally opened myself up and made myself vulnerable. ... I wasn't sure how it would be received, but people have been so amazing.
"If my dad does win, knock on wood, I'm going to keep the blog going and tell everyone what it's like to be the First Daughter," she vowed.
But before all that, how will she unwind after a year and a half on the campaign trail? What does life on November 5 look like?
"I'll relax a little bit, but I'm a total type-A personality," she joked. "I've got to start looking for another job when this is over."
And what will be the first song on her playlist the day after the election?
"Probably Queen's 'We Will Rock You.' "
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