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Campaign Profiles: Cindy McCain

July 30, 2008
by Isabel Cowles
Cindy Lou McCain is a private woman in the public eye. Raised by a successful businessman and stylish socialite, Mrs. McCain has always projected perfection. Cindy McCain has had many roles throughout her life: Junior Rodeo Queen, sorority sister, teacher, social worker and mother. Will First Lady be next?

Her Background

Cindy Lou Hensley was an only child. Her father, Jim Hensley, founded an Anheuser-Busch distributorship and her mother, Marguerite, was a “proper belle who emphasized impeccable manners,” The Washington Post notes. “She was the apple of her father’s eye,” says a long-time friend. Cindy got excellent grades in high school, earned a master’s degree and became a special needs teacher. Cindy quit her job to follow her husband on his first campaign: “She’s been a candidate’s wife for almost the entire course of her 28-year marriage. She looks perfect for the part. The perfection of Cindy McCain is a theme that repeats itself in interviews with those who know her—this woman who hid her drug addiction from her husband for years, who fought her fear of campaigning via small planes by getting her pilot's license without telling her husband,” says the article.
In 2003, Cindy and John McCain opened their home to raise money for a local school. “This was Cindy’s childhood home, so that makes it special,” the senator explained to guests. According to Architectural Digest, “Cindy McCain grew up in this house at a time when Phoenix was a relatively small town and the neighborhood was zoned for agriculture. She rode horses that were then stabled behind the house. In her golden girlhood, she was the Junior Rodeo Queen …‘The rodeo was such a big deal it was a holiday,’ she says.”

Her Campaign

Cindy McCain never wanted a life in the public eye. According to Newsweek, Cindy “finds the confessional mode of American politics distasteful, and does not feel the need to overshare.” Despite her initial hesitation, Cindy joined her husband on “The Straight Talk Express” during his first presidential campaign in 1999. But, Newsweek reports, “Sen. McCain lost the South Carolina primary after a vicious dirty-tricks campaign, in which his opponents smeared Cindy as a drug addict and spread rumors that [adopted daughter] Bridget was really McCain's illegitimate child. Cindy cried in full view of reporters.” Mrs. McCain says she’s ready to move back to Washington. “Yet,” Newsweek reports, “there is an unmistakable note of reticence: the uncertainty of a woman who has seen enough of the dark side of politics to know that she hasn't yet seen it all. ‘Hopefully,’ she says, ‘it will be a good experience.’”
In an interview with “The Early Show” on CBS, Cindy McCain explained that the entire McCain family stood behind Senator McCain’s decision to run for president in 2008: “We sat down as a family around Christmastime and the end result is that they’re all supportive.” The McCain have four children: two boys who are currently serving in the war and two daughters. The youngest girl was adopted from Bangladesh and has a cleft palate. Her condition prompted Cindy McCain to get involved with Operation Smile. She explained that for just $250, the organization offers complete reconstructive surgery: “These kids would be in a closet some place, or kept in a back room,” she said. “It’s miraculous.”

Cindy McCain vs. Michelle Obama

Both Cindy McCain and Michelle Obama are under enormous pressure because of their husbands’ campaigns. According to The Week Daily, “Both women used their appearances on The View to smooth over a ‘campaign kerfuffle’ … For Obama it was a comment about being proud of her country for the first time, and for McCain it was because purported family recipes on her husband’s campaign site were ‘copied word-for-word from ones by Rachael Ray.’”

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