By Kelly O'Donnell, NBC News correspondent
The candidates often like to say there are "stark differences" between the two parties in this presidential contest. One small and simple difference is how they fly.
The McCain campaign, unlike the operations surrounding Obama and Clinton, does not yet have one designated aircraft. For months, the presumptive republican nominee has chartered JetBlue with its fleet of Airbus and Embraer aircraft. Airbus is headquartered in France and Embraer in Brazil and usually that is of little interest on the campaign trail. But in the Pacific Northwest it matters. So today when Senator John McCain flew from Portland to Seattle, he landed in a Boeing 737. This week, the McCain campaign is using Swift Aviation which uses Boeing aircraft. While advisors say they simply got a better price for the week clearly the Boeing factor provided a political opportunity. If McCain had landed in an Airbus, that picture could have been a story in itself. By changing to Boeing, McCain at the very least avoided the issue and at best appeared conscience of the local economy.
McCain also has some political baggage attached to the Boeing name. A few years ago McCain went after a pentagon project where the Air Force had a pricey contract with Boeing to build a tanker. Without going into all the details here, the mess revealed an illegal deal and a few people both at Boeing and the DoD were convicted. One other consequence, Boeing lost the deal to Airbus. Some in Seattle blamed McCain for lost jobs. Today he was asked about the issue at a short news conference. McCain responded, "I have the greatest respect and appreciation for the workers at Boeing Aircraft. They have turned out some of the finest products in history, we all know that... I led an investigation that ended up, unfortunately with Boeing employees in federal prison and would have cost the taxpayers an additional 6.2 billion dollars."
McCain certainly knew a question like this was coming and so you can see why landing in a Boeing aircraft was about more than a good charter deal.