That “Tailspin” Quip

John McCain might not keep pace with Mike Huckabee for quantity of one-liners, but it’s a tight race for quality. McCain practically revived his candidacy with his quip during the October debate that he couldn’t attend Woodstock since he was ” tied up .”

Now he’s back with another witticism, this time targeting Mitt Romney. Responding to Romney’s new “contrast” ad on McCain’s tax record, McCain said: “If there’s any doubt that we’re doing well, it’s when Mitt Romney starts attacking. He’s attacking Huckabee out here in Iowa. I’m familiar with tailspins and I think he’s in one.

This could be referring to one of two things. Either McCain is saying that he himself has helmed a stagnant campaign (first in 2000, then again earlier this year), and it takes one to know one. Or— or —he’s referring to having his plane shot down over North Vietnam.

Either way, the line is genius. If he’s talking about his own campaign problems, he gets points for self-deprecation. At the same time, he reminds voters that he’s now back in the saddle. (You only joke about your failing candidacy once it’s stopped failing.)

If he’s actually talking about his plane going into a tailspin, after which he was captured and held in Hanoi for five years, then, well, that’s just awesome. McCain has never hidden his disdain for Romney—remember him scowling while Romney talked during the October debate? The subtext here is, I was fighting for my country while you were gallivanting around Paris in a suit and tie. So, to recap: Remind voters of his POW experience: check. Tweak Romney for starting so many fights: check. Be funny: check plus.

Which one was it? McCain response pending …