Remembering John McCain: New Hampshire's Senator from Arizona

Aug 26, 2018

Senator John McCain, a Vietnam War hero who won two New Hampshire presidential primaries, died Saturday after a months-long battle with brain cancer. He was 81.

An outpouring of remembrances was swift from colleagues and friends across the political spectrum. He will lie in state at both the U.S. and Arizona Capitols and he will be buried at the U.S. Naval Academy Cemetery.

"He loved this nation and he had a sense of optimism about it right until the end," said former Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who served alongside McCain and was a close friend of the senator's.

Click through the slideshow above to see photos of John McCain in New Hampshire

The Republican from Arizona became something of a favorite son in the Granite State during his 2000 and 2008 presidential campaigns. 

Watch: John McCain's 2000 presidential campaign announcement

Sen. John McCain during the 2008 New Hampshire Presidential Primary.
Credit Tracy Lee Carroll / NHPR

The candidate's "Straight Talk Express" bus rolled from one end of New Hampshire to the other as McCain greeted voters, shared a grand vision of America, and sat down with local reporters, as frequently cracking jokes as talking policy.

McCain held well over 100 town hall-style meetings during his campaigns. 

The town halls, which gave voters a chance to see McCain respond off-the-cuff to their questions, helped him resurrect a flailing, money-bleeding campaign in 2008. He went on to become the Republican nominee after a comeback kicked-off by New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary voters.

Watch: John McCain's final town hall in New Hampshire as a candidate

A Favorite Political Son

Over the past two decades, it seems like John McCain was always coming back to New Hampshire. In 2016, he helped fellow senator and friend Lindsey Graham campaign in the Granite State, appearing alongside him at several signature town hall-style events in the run-up to the presidential primary.

Sen. John McCain campaigns with Sen. Lindsey Graham during the 2016 New Hampshire Primary
Credit NHPR Staff

"People in New Hampshire like folks who'll answer hard questions, will admit when they've made a mistake, will admit when they don't have all the answers and when they engage with people on a one-to-one basis," said Steve Duprey, a Republican National Committeeman from Concord and close friend and advisor to McCain.

"John McCain just did that better than any other candidate in modern history."

Watch: John McCain thanks supporters who helped him win the 2000 N.H. Primary

American Hero, Statesman

In the Vietnam War, McCain was a Navy fighter pilot who, after being shot down, was a prisoner of war for nearly six years. He wrote of his hardship in his 1999 book, "Faith of My Fathers," and it's a tale he shared on the campaign trail as he talked about his views of America and the globe. 

"Senator McCain, the word maverick is almost awlays attached to your name," NHPR's Laura Knoy said during an early interview with McCain in 1999.

"I prefer patriot," he replied."But in some ways it probably fits me because I am very clear in my vision of what my principles and what my visions of America is about. And sometimes that causes me to take on the leaders of my own party and even disagree with my own constituents from time to time."

Watch: John McCain reacts to his 2008 N.H. Primary win

Reflection: On The Road with John McCain

Watch: Steve Duprey talks about his experiences campaigning with John McCain