ST. PETERSBURG — You won't see her on stage, but Meghan McCain is always there. On the bus, on the plane, at the rallies.
She criss-crosses the country with her father, Sen. John McCain, taking note of Arnold Schwarzenegger's tie, Charlie Crist's complexion and supporters seeking handshakes — all for her blog, McCainBlogette.com.
But anyone looking to learn where Sen. McCain stands on the issues won't find it here. There's no discussion of policy. And no links between her site and the one for his presidential campaign.
"I wanted it to be personal," Meghan, 23, said during an interview with the St. Petersburg Times last week while her father held a fundraiser in St. Petersburg.
Wearing her favorite Diane Von Furstenberg black jacket, black-and-white snakeskin print Tory Burch flats, a dress by Vince and Oliver Peoples sunglasses, McCain made it clear she has no intention of getting political with her blog.
Instead, it serves as sort of a hip replacement for her 71-year-old father.
She offers iPod playlists (the Flaming Lips, the White Stripes and Tom Waits make the cut), makeup and fashion tips (cheap hoop earrings from Forever 21 are her weakness), pop culture musings and tons of pictures (including a shot of Henry Kissinger's shoes because "Who doesn't want to know what kind of shoes Dr. Kissinger wears?").
McCain decided to do the blog after graduating from Columbia University in May 2007 with a degree in art history and attending her brother's deployment ceremony before he left for the Middle East.
"Going to something like that motivates you to get involved," she said.
She enlisted the help of photographer friend Heather Brand, 31, and videographer Shannon Bae, 32. Together, they are the McCain Blogettes.
"It was kind of an experiment in cutting-edge journalism," said McCain, one of the Arizona senator's children through his marriage to Cindy McCain.
The intimate access to a presidential campaign is a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Meghan McCain said. "I thought how cool if one of Ronald Reagan's or Richard Nixon's kids had done something like this."
She catalogs her father's activities, but like many blogs, it's all about her point of view.
She titled an entry about a stop in Los Angeles "Californication," the name of a Red Hot Chili Peppers album.
In March, she responded to public criticism of her weight, writing: "I am proud of my curves and have always loved my fuller figure, as should every woman who is not a size 0."
On her trip to the Tampa Bay area last week, McCain blogged: "The girls and I ended the day going to one of my favorite restaurants, Sonic. I am obsessed with their burgers and cherry limeade."
She details campaign high jinks, including a tattoo contest (she has a star on her ankle), a best-dressed reporter competition and frequent Starbucks runs.
She tells readers the five people — dead or alive — she would most like to invite to a dinner party: legendary Rolling Stone reporter Lester Bangs, fashion designer Coco Chanel, rockers Johnny Ramone and Debbie Harry, and Ronald Reagan.
She reveals that while working as an intern at Saturday Night Live, she witnessed the Ashlee Simpson lip-sync flub-up that ended with Simpson leaving the stage mid song.
She laments missing the Coachella music festival to go to the White House correspondents dinner, where she had her picture snapped with the Jonas Brothers.
That night she also met Heidi Montag, a McCain supporter and star of the MTV hit reality show The Hills.
She reports that both Montag and her boyfriend, Spencer Pratt, are "nice" and "smart," and hopes Montag will do some campaigning for her father.
As the campaign heads into November, don't expect daughter McCain to bash Barack Obama.
"I hate negativity on the Internet," she said. "We will never write anything negative about anybody."
According to Nielsen NetRatings, McCainBlogette.com had at least 17,000 new visitors in April, and peaked with 98,000 in February.
Observers say McCain's blog humanizes her father.
"She's not off message. She's not on message," said Josh Levy, a blogger for TechPresident.com, which focuses on how the presidential candidates use the Internet. "It's pictures of her father, and when those aren't available it's her and her friends and her shoes."
The tone is bouncy, friendly and excited, he noted, but it's not going to help anyone decide whom to vote for.
"What is this exactly? What I think it is, honestly, is that Meghan McCain wanted to blog," Levy said.
A spokesman for Sen. McCain's campaign said he reads the blog when he can.
McCain said she shares many of her father's political views, even though she registered as an Independent and voted for John Kerry in 2004. This week, she was working to change her Arizona voter registration to Republican.
"I think my father would make a great president," she said.
But she also may continue her blog.
"I would hate to get rid of it," she said. "I figure if Arianna Huffington and Perez Hilton can do it, I can do it, too."
Janet Zink can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3401.