A confidential source has provided the Think 3 Institute with an exclusive copy of a rehearsal tape made prior to Senator McCain's acceptance speech at last week's Republican National Convention in St. Paul. It is unclear when during the week this tape was made, but it clearly demonstrates that the candidate drastically altered the content of his message before Thursday night. The text indicates that McCain was going to emphasize the September 11, 2001 attacks in a manner that probably seemed redundant by Thursday, following Rudy Giuliani's speech. At the same time, McCain here appears determined to warn the nation of a new threat, but by Thursday had given up on the idea.
Because this was only a rehearsal, Senator McCain adopts a more relaxed posture than he employed in his final speech, perhaps because the 72 year old Arizonan wanted to reserve his strength for the big occasion. Interestingly, we see the senator experimenting with his hair in an ultimately abandoned attempt to update his look. We also see him dressed in what we understand to be the kind of fashion McCain is more comfortable with. Ironically, the overall effect is to render McCain perhaps more wooden than he normally looks and sounds, but the whole idea of the rehearsal project was to correct these defects by Thursday night.
While McCain's regular speechwriter, James Salter, no doubt put the acceptance speech into final form later, there's reason to believe that the rehearsal speech comes closer to representing the Republican's own thinking. It indisputably reproduces the candidate's characteristic rhetoric, but also shows a tendency to solipsism that Salter edited out in a later, more polished draft.
The McCain campaign was obviously concerned about leaks of potentially sensitive material like this rehearsal tape, taking steps like using low-grade, lo-fi materials and placing a code name at the beginning to throw the curious off the trail. It should be understood that the tape was not made to test the lighting or editing for the final TV broadcast, but simply to get the look and sound of the senator practising a first draft of an inevitably revised speech. We owe the fact that the tape was not destroyed to a high ranking McCain operative who believed that the rehearsal had historical value. The same source reports that eight rehearsal tapes were prepared before the ninth and final version of the speech was delivered on Thursday, but the following tape is all that remains of McCain's original idea.