Q: When you got back to the White House that night and first saw those exit polls, did you think who’s writing the concession speech?
MCCONNELL: No, because there was one ready. In fact, the Sunday before the election Mike Gerson and I sat down and we drafted both, on Air Force One. The president was off. We were somewhere in Florida, and the president went to a big event with his brother, the Governor. I think they also went to church that morning. But Mike suggested we stay on the plane, and we get an election night statement ready. So we wrote a victory statement and a concession speech, just to be ready, because you don’t want to be presumptuous and you don’t want your boss to be sitting there alone unprepared [01:25:00] for whatever happened.
Q: We know what the victory speech said. What did the concession speech say?
MCCONNELL: Well, like the 2000 speech that we had done, I guess the 2000, Matthew Scully definitely was involved in that, and as I recall we tried in ’04 to remember what it was we had written in 2000, just because the spirit of it was just right. It was gracious, the way we knew Bush would be, and brief, but a really nice laying down of arms statement, the kind of — we wanted it to be a model of the form. We consider it one of the great undelivered speeches (laughter), [01:26:00] happily so, where we don’t mind it being lost to history.
Q: Well, thank you, John McConnell, for sharing your memories and your insights.
MCCONNELL: I’m glad to do it.
END OF AUDIO FILE
John McConnell Interview, Center for Presidential History, Southern Methodist University, The Election of 2004 Collective Memory Project, 19 November 2014, accessed at http://cphcmp.smu.edu/2004election/john-mcconnell/.
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