PHOENIX (AP) – Republican John McCain bid farewell Tuesday to the reporters and photographers who traveled the country with him during the presidential contest, calling the campaign “a great experience, full of memories.”

McCain came back to the press cabin with his wife, Cindy, to say goodbye during the final flight of Straight Talk Air. The group traveled between a visit to a call center in Albuquerque, N.M., and Phoenix.

“My friends, it’s our last flight on this airplane,” McCain told the assembled group as cameras clicked and digital tape recorders whirred.

“I’m feeling good, feeling confident about the way things have turned out,” McCain said. “We’ve had a great ride, a great experience full of memories that we will always treasure.”

McCain told the media Tuesday: “So anyway we’ve had a great time and I wish you every success, I look forward to being with you in the future. Thanks very much.”

He reminisced about the early days after his campaign imploded in July 2007, when just a handful of reporters continued following him around New Hampshire and other early primary states. He came back to win his party’s nomination this past March.

“Those are the ones that went around in the van with us and on the $39.99 flight to Manchester,” he joked.

McCain, long known as one of the most media friendly and accessible politicians, all but abandoned the signature “straight talk” rides with reporters aboard his campaign bus and plane this past summer as campaign advisers tried to impose greater message discipline.

He took a handful of questions from the traveling press on Sept. 23 in Michigan, but his last full-blown news conference was Aug. 13.

McCain told the media Tuesday: “So anyway we’ve had a great time and I wish you every success, I look forward to being with you in the future. Thanks very much.”


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