Mark Salter

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Mark Salter
Personal details
Born1955 (age 63–64)
Davenport, Iowa, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
EducationGeorgetown University (BA)

Mark Salter is an American speechwriter from Davenport, Iowa, known for his collaborations with United States Senator John McCain on several nonfiction books as well as on political speeches. Salter has also served as McCain's chief of staff for a while, although he had left that position by 2008. Salter has often been referred to as McCain's "alter ego".[1][2]

Early life[edit]

Salter grew up in Davenport, Iowa.[1] There he attended Roman Catholic parochial schools.[3] Salter had a wandering upbringing and early adulthood, not settling down, working on railroad track maintenance in Iowa for four years and playing in a music group.[1][2] Salter first entered politics as a speech writer for U.S. Ambassador to the UN Jeane Kirkpatrick.[2][3] He later attended Georgetown University.[3]

Work with John McCain[edit]

Salter first began working for McCain following a chance encounter at the 1988 Republican National Convention.[1]

During the John McCain presidential campaign, 2008 the Wall Street Journal wrote that "When it comes to Sen. McCain's image, Mr. Salter, 53 years old, is the campaign's chief creator, shaper and enforcer. For two decades, he has been the presumed Republican nominee's speechwriter, adviser and confidant."[4] He almost left the campaign in mid-2007, when it suffered a collapse[clarification needed] and there were many personnel shake-ups.[1] During the latter stages of the campaign Salter frequently criticised media treatment of the candidate, which he said was consistently tilted in his rivals' favor.[5][6]

Some observers[who?] have credited McCain's public servant persona as a literary project due to Salter's efforts.[2][7]

Of their writing process, Salter said in 2008: "It's his voice, but I'm going inside his head to speak some psychological truth about him. I'm drawing a conclusion based on my observation of him. I always show him: 'This is what I've written. This is what I think about you. Is this fair?' "[8] Observers of the two have likened their sharing to that of a Vulcan mind meld.[8]

Howard Fineman wrote in a 2008 Newsweek article: "McCain and Salter are stylistically similar and share a world view: they like to operate in intimate settings, with a loyal band of brothers, a clear enemy in sight and an almost joyful fatalism in the face of long odds."[3] He compared Salter's role to that of Boswell.[3]

He was portrayed as a sympathetic figure by actor Jamey Sheridan in the 2012 HBO production of Game Change for his role in the latter months of McCain's unsuccessful 2008 Presidential campaign.[citation needed]

Following the 2008 campaign loss, Salter became less of a presence in the McCain political operation.[9]

Published works[edit]

Aside from having worked on Senator McCain's staff for 19 years (as of 2008), Salter has also written, in collaboration with McCain, the books

McCain has always given Salter front-cover credit for his writing work, and also splits income from the books with Salter evenly.[1] That even split is a rarity in the political world, which often uses flat-rate ghostwriters, and allowed Salter and his wife—herself a former secretary on McCain's staff—to set up a second residence in Maine.[3]

In 2011, Mark Halperin wrote in Time magazine that Salter was the author of the anonymously written 2011 book O: A Presidential Novel.[10][11][12]

Personal life[edit]

Salter lives in Alexandria, Virginia, with his wife Diane; they have two daughters.

In May 2016 Salter announced he would support Hillary Clinton in the 2016 United States presidential election, rather than presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump.[13]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "McCain Chief Loyalist Has New Role". 30 October 2008. Retrieved 20 April 2017 – via
  2. ^ a b c d "Inventing John McCain". Retrieved 20 April 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Mark Salter: McCain's Closest Aide". 18 July 2008. Retrieved 30 November 2016.
  4. ^ required)
  5. ^ Goldberg, Jeffrey. "Mark Salter on the Press and John McCain". Retrieved 30 November 2016.
  6. ^ Leahy, Michael (30 October 2008). "McCain Chief Loyalist Has New Role". Retrieved 20 April 2017 – via
  7. ^ Kirkpatrick, David D. "Writing Memoir, McCain Found a Narrative for Life -". Retrieved 30 November 2016.
  8. ^ a b Kaiser, Robert G. (1 August 2008). "The Curious Mind of John McCain". Retrieved 30 November 2016 – via
  9. ^ Purdum, Todd S., "The Man Who Never Was", Vanity Fair (November 2010). Retrieved May 21, 2011.
  10. ^ "McCain adviser pegged as 'O' author". Retrieved 30 November 2016.
  11. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-01-29. Retrieved 2011-01-28.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  12. ^ "Mark Salter Revealed As Author Of 'O' By Mark Halperin". 27 January 2011. Retrieved 20 April 2017 – via Huff Post.
  13. ^ "Former McCain adviser: I'm with Hillary". Retrieved 20 April 2017.