It was near the end of 2007, and the presidential campaign of John McCain, left for dead six months earlier, was beginning to show signs of life. With no money, a skeleton, unpaid staff and a press corps taking bets on the date of his surrender, the Arizona senator was drawing the kinds of crowds in New Hampshire that had propelled him to a primary victory there in 2000.

“So, senator,” I asked him half-seriously. “Is there something about you that requires you to be dangling off a cliff with a fraying rope before you can start to succeed?”

“You know,” he said with a laugh, “there might be something to that.”

In a sense, much of McCain’s adult life can be defined by Vince Lombardi’s observation that “the real glory is being knocked to your knees and then coming back.” The rebellious, sometimes reckless Naval pilot found astonishing courage and resilience in his five and a half years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam. The United States senator faulted for meeting with federal regulators on behalf of a felonious banker (and campaign contributor), the late Charles Keating, turned what he called “the worst moment of my life” into a years-long fight for campaign finance reform.