DENVER, 12:09 a.m. — Strolling down a sidewalk downtown Tuesday, I suddenly noticed two television cameramen cross the street ahead of me and, cameras in hand, break into a full sprint in my direction.
This is odd, I thought. I am usually famous enough to only attract one cameraman, not two.
So I looked around. To my right — and by my right, I mean, within arm’s reach — was none other than Mitt Romney, one of the Republican interlopers for whom I warned to be on the lookout earlier this week. I had been walking side-by-side with him for all of a block and didn’t even realize it.
The celebrity stalking continues tomorrow. Things are looking up.
DENVER, 2:20 a.m. — On stage before a throng of sweaty youth, Representative Kendrick Meek of Florida pulled a microphone close to his mouth. He had already emphasized the importance of registering to vote. Now, he said, it was time to welcome “the Fall Out Boys.”
Close enough. The hundreds that filled the Ellie Caulkins Opera House for the Rock the Vote Ballot Bash did not seem to mind Meek’s flub.
I managed to secure a credential to “report” on the concert, which featured Jakob Dylan, N*E*R*D and Fall Out Boy. But I don’t know anything about music, regrettably, and thus have little to add as far as critical analysis. Photographs are after the jump.
Rock the Vote has already registered one million young people to vote this year alone, according to the organization. They hope to reach two million by Election Day.
DENVER, 6:05 p.m. — Yesterday was a failure in my ongoing quest to chronicle the pseudo-celebrities who have flocked to the Democratic National Convention. But today, there have been a few promising developments.
First, walking around the club level of the Pepsi Center is essentially like shooting fish in a barrel when it comes to famous people. The floor comprises luxury boxes (where the big-shot politicians and celebrities sit) and the television studios for all the major networks. The Pepsi Center was almost empty when I walked around this afternoon, but at nighttime, I assume one loop around the club level will provide a bounty of celebrity sightings.
Until then, I will have to be content with having found John Oliver, a correspondent for The Daily Show, snookering unsuspecting delegates into granting him interviews as they headed inside the arena.
DENVER, 2:23 p.m. — This winter, the musical artist known as will.i.am was feeling blue. His single album had flopped. He had a falling out with his manager.
Then came the song that changed it all.
Six months after the Black Eyed Peas frontman gave the campaign of Senator Barack Obama a shot in the arm with his widely-circulated music video adapted from one of the presumptive Democratic nominee’s speeches, will.i.am reminisced Monday about how it all began.
Heading into the New Hampshire primary on Jan. 8, the 33-year-old said he was genuinely undecided between Obama and Senator Hillary Clinton LAW ’73. Then he watched Obama’s concession speech, delivered to a raucous crowd in Nashua.
“It was inspiration,” he told a crowd of reporters and young Democrats gathered for an event about youth involvement in the presidential race. “I was like, ‘Wow, this man can inspire me when he lost. How is he going to inspire me when he wins?’”
NASHUA, N.H., 1:30 p.m. — Vermin Supreme has been described by some as “obnoxious.” But, he told the News in an interview last night, this year, he had a warm reception here in New Hampshire.Speaking after John McCain’s victory speech last night, where he ascended the stage after the 71-year-old candidate disappeared, he invited the crowd to “the Wal-Mart parking lot.””It’ll be a lot of fun, all the campaign buses will be there, monster trucks, nitro-fuelled funny cars, it’s gonna be great,” he said. “I hope you’ll be there. My bus will be the one with the flames and the skulls all over it.”More after the jump. (more…)
BOSTON, Mass., 12:49 a.m. — 1) Did primaries always get so much media attention? Granted, I was a clueless high school senior last time ’round, but this amount of scrutiny just seems insane. Yesterday I watched Access Hollywood’s sultry Maria Menounos ask Hillary Clinton how she would spend a free Saturday night. Hillary’s response and – yes – this is a direct quote: “Usually I do some kind of cleaning activity. I find cleaning closets and drawers to be extremely gratifying. . .” Uh, I just don’t even know what to do with that.
2) Polls remind me of weather forecasts. People put so much stock in them and don’t shut up about them. When a friend says on Tuesday, “We shouldn’t plan on that beach trip this weekend because weather.com says there is a 64 percent change of precipitation,” when Friday rolls around, without fail, it will be gorgeous outside and you will be angry. Polls are like this. When they announced Hillary won, I said to my parents, “Uh, didn’t every poll say Obama was going to win?” There was no response.
3) Oration matters. Since all the speeches are essentially the same (riffs on change and young people and passion), the good speakers definitely stand out from the ones that put you to sleep. I am pretty sure that if I were a candidate, I would work on public speaking twice as much as any sort of policy. This is also why I would be a terrible politician. (Side note: I am totally going to institute a new drinking game in which you take a shot every time a politician says “change” or smiles like the Cheshire Cat.)
4) I noticed lots of young’uns taking camera phone pix of politicians at speeches. At first I found this strangely unsettling, but I think it is indicative of the fervor I have noticed among young people when it comes to this campaign. Politicians are the new rock stars. Zac Efron posters are being torn down for Obama pennants. And while “Kim is f-e-r-g-a-l-i-c-i-o-u-s” used to be a hip Facebook status, “Kim is YOU ROCKED IT, HIL!” has supplanted it. Kids are excited about politics. I am using words like “caucus” and “huckabee” and “iraq” in my gchats. For a notoriously politically apathetic generation, this is positive. As [INSERT YOUR FAVORITE POLTICIAN HERE] would say, “Change is good.”
HART’S LOCATION, N.H., 4:30 a.m. — It is the land of moose crossings and low, clinging fog; a place, in the immortal opening words of Twin Peaks, where “an orange light still means slow down.”
But Hart’s Location, N.H. has attracted the attention of the nation every four years since 1996 when it restarted the tradition of positioning itself as the first town in the first primary state to vote. True, there is another contender, Dixville Notch — a small community 80 miles north of here. But Hart’s Location-ites don’t like to think about them here.
“We believe that we are the first town to vote,” said Nancy Ritgard, a resident who helped in the polling booth. “There’s another small town that does that, but we’re much faster. And better.”
She added, “We were the ones that started it.”
The tradition began in 1948 but was phased out in 1964 when, some say, Dixville Notch stole the spot with a fast clock and an intrepid photographer who managed to get pictures out before anyone did here.
“They just got tired of it and they stopped,” said Caroline King, a volunteer who owns the original kitchen table where the votes were collected from 1948 to 1964. “I’ve got the table at home,” she said.
True to its basic origins, the poll takes place in a small makeshift cabin up a small bank, indicated only by a truck with flashing lights sitting on the road. The atmosphere is jovial, almost that of a village fête but on a tiny scale. Everybody knows each other, apart from the two or three journalists (one who comes from as far away as France). Lumberjack shirts abound even though we are miles away from Williamsburg, Brooklyn and its hipster chique. The ambiance contributes to the tight-knit nature of the gathering, festooned with flags and posters of previous results.
Two hours away from any substantial hub of civilization on a desperately lonely road, Hart’s Location residents should not be surprised that they attract so few here. The cabin doesn’t even have running water.
SEABROOK, N.H., 2:28 am. — We’re down to one day before the polls open, and for the candidates, it is game time. A few musings from the trail today:
Chris Dodd’s former New Hampshire chair, Joe Keefe, has endorsed Senator Barack Obama, and he was the first speaker at the Obama rally in Manchester on Sunday morning. I wondered if anyone in the audience knew who Dodd was.
I didn’t have much time to dwell on that thought, however. As Keefe walked to the podium and the crowd applauded with polite enthusiasm, a 40-something woman in front of me turned to her neighbor and asked, “Is that Obama?”Mr. Keefe is a white man.
She wasn’t joking, either.
Can someone buy the candidates a wristwatch, please? Senator Hillary Clinton’s rally in Hampton, N.H., was scheduled for 5 p.m. Great, right? At about 5:15 p.m., an aide took the stage and said the senator would be there shortly. At 6 p.m., he came back on stage and promised she would be there in 15 minutes. At 6:45 p.m., nearly two hours late, she finally arrived. I already complained about Senator Obama being tardy for his own rally this morning in Manchester. Apparently an afternoon Obama rally was similarly behind schedule. And John Edwards was chastised for his lateness last month, too. Punctuality is important! Jeez! How can you be president if you can’t even show up within, say, an hour of the right time? You can’t even blame Daylight Savings Time for that! What would Undergraduate Career Services do with these people? Philip Jones would have a field day!
My strategy thus far for determining the precise location of a rally or town hall meeting or whatever here in New Hampshire has been to drive to the high school or college campus or wherever and then just look for the row of satellite trucks, police cars, protesters, etc. (or, failing that, Salon’s Walter Shapiro, who was also at the Obama rally this morning) and then head in that direction. So tonight, I headed to Phillips Exeter Academy to hear former Senator Mike Gravel give a talk, assuming I would be able to find the senator using the above strategy. I forgot that, to the American mainstream media, I am more newsworthy than Mike Gravel at this point. There was no commotion to be found, no media, no nothing.
Luckily, a security guard pointed me in the right direction. It was actually a very nice event — held in the Exeter library, it had the feel of a Master’s Tea. Except without refreshments.
Props to the New Haven media for putting some serious legwork into covering the primaries. First, the New Haven Independent sent a reporter to Iowa to Senator Christopher J. Dodd’s efforts to survive the Iowa caucus.Now, this week, News Channel 8 has been a regular presence here in New Hampshire. I spotted their truck at the debates Saturday night, and chief political correspondent Mark Davis reported live (perhaps the only reporter to do so?) from Hillary Clinton’s rally in Hampton, N.H., on Sunday night. Paparazzi photos below, of course.
Another pseudo-celebrity sighting on Sunday: Dana Milbank ’90 of The Washington Post. I think.
As the News’s fancy digital camera dangled from my neck at the Clinton rally, someone in the press pool approached me and asked if I could introduce her to a certain Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer whom she admired. I knew him from my work at the White House, right? No, I said. You see, as fancy as my camera may look and no matter how many press credentials I’m wearing simultaneously, I do not work at the White House. Until this morning, I did not even know how to turn the flash on my camera on and off.
SEABROOK, N.H., 3:41 p.m. — The campaign trail is hopping today. A few items to consider:
Senator Barack Obama’s even this morning was scheduled for 9 a.m.; it began at 10:21 a.m. Are rallies supposed to begin fashionably late, or something?
Third pseudo-celebrity sighting of the trip: MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, standing in the lobby of the Palace Theater before Obama’s rally.
Obama entered to U2’s “City of Blinding Lights” and exited to Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered.” Neither song contains the word “change” (I checked). I thought candidates were supposed to stay on message!
More after the jump, plus photos from the campaign trail. (more…)
ROUTE 101, N.H., 8:32 a.m. — In the last season of The West Wing, Republican presidential candidate Arnold Vinick saw his campaign crash and burn after a nuclear power plant he pushed to build in his home state came close to a meltdown. His opponent, Democratic Congressman Matthew Santos, soared in the polls as Vinick was assailed for his support of dangerous, scary nuclear power.
Apparently some clever real-life politico thought that a pretty nifty idea. I caught an ad on the radio this morning from a 527 group that urged voters to spurn any presidential candidate who supports nuclear power.
You see, there’s a big nuclear power plant in Seabrook, N.H. — my hotel lists it as the No. 2 top attraction in the town — and there’s apparently been some talk about adding a second reactor to that plant. The advertisement, with fear-inducing music, warned voters that nuclear power plants will be attacked by terrorists, melt down, etc. and kill you and your children.
I don’t know the candidates’ positions on nuclear power, and I don’t care enough to look them up. But, in The West Wing, at least, Representative Santos won the election.
MANCHESTER, N.H., 6:45 p.m. — Welcome to the Carr Center at Saint Anselm College, which tonight is the headquarters for what seems to be all of the media in the United States.
In a building that looks something like the Lanman Center at Paine Whitney Gymnasium, hundreds upon hundreds of journalists are seated facing two massive projection screens, like those used at trendy rock concerts. In about a half hour, the Republican debate will begin. (more…)