Pulitzer Prize winning Washington Post political columnist David Broder was surprised at my response to his question about the 2000 Republican presidential primary when I told him I was supporting John McCain. He asked why and I replied that it started with McCain’s story of courage and bravery, his traditional values, and ended with his sense of honor and his purpose to do what was right for the country. It was simple as that.

I went on to serve as a state co-chairman of McCain’s California campaign in 2000 along with premier Republican strategist, Ken Khachigian, who was Ronald Reagan’s chief speechwriter. Ken was McCain’s California connection during the campaign serving as a senior advisor who traveled with the senator. I first met McCain when we shared the back seat of a car from downtown Los Angeles to Santa Monica as he explained his rational for running. He was headed out to meet Bill Rosendahl, later a Los Angeles City Councilman, but then moderator of a popular Southern California cable TV political show.

McCain was running a by-the-bootstraps campaign at that point facing an uphill battle against Texas Governor George W. Bush who was backed by the Republican establishment.

The Arizona senator eventually moved out of his dark horse status when he surprised Bush in New Hampshire, beating the Texas governor by 18%. Despite generating favorable publicity for his openness with reporters on his bus, the Straight Talk Express, the campaign got rougher for him after New Hampshire.

George W. Bush would eliminate McCain the night of the California primary. I was not too far behind McCain and his wife Cindy as they made their way in the back corridors of the Pacific Design Center building in West Hollywood to make a concession speech when MSNBC reporter Maria Shriver asked how he was feeling. In frustration, and as a man known to have outbursts of temper, McCain turned on her and responded: “Please get out of here.” The good publicity he had enjoyed early on in the primary had turned sour.

The next day McCain suspended his campaign.

Of course, the many remembrances of McCain published the last couple of days tell his story as a soldier, a senator, a major party presidential nominee and of his actions in the senate post presidential run.

McCain’s independent and maverick style brought him both friends and foes. Yet, he gained admiration from many in this difficult business. I didn’t agree with every position McCain took over his long career but like many I truly respected him. I believe, as I told David Broder, it was because of his sense of honor, integrity, and his desire to do what was right for the country.

Senator John McCain, a major character in this country’s political drama for decades, has left the stage.