PRESCOTT, Ariz., 1:08 a.m. — Senator John McCain is hoping to reverse what he calls one of Arizona’s “unhappy traditions.”
Speaking in front of the same courthouse steps here where Barry Goldwater launched and ended his 1964 bid for the presidency, McCain said he would reverse the tradition of Arizonans losing presidential elections.
“I’m confident because I’ve seen the momentum, my friends” he said in the earliest hours of Wednesday morning after completing a seven-state sprint across the country on Tuesday. “All we’ve got to do is get out the vote.”
PHOENIX, 9:15 p.m. — The Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport was something of a political battleground tonight.
Passengers on my US Airways flight didn’t even have to exit the jetway before they heard the rumble of political debate in the terminal. CNN was blaring with the sound of a McCain stump speech from earlier today.
As Senator John McCain roared on the television, “Mac is back,” passengers waiting in his home state’s largest airport drowned him out with boos and cheers, shouts of “Nobama” and screams of “Yes We Can.”
One Philadelphia-bound woman, who would only identify herself as Nicki, said she was ashamed to be from McCain’s home state.
“He’s not the same man we put in the Senate,” she said. “It’s time for change.”
Traveling to such a political hot spot as South Carolina, I expected to run into fellow reporters covering the campaign trail. However, I wasn’t really expecting to run into them in line at “Five Guys Burgers” at 7:30 a.m. in the Washington, D.C., airport.
That’s where I met Kevin and Sreya, a reporter and cameraman working for Reuters and also traveling to South Carolina. After demolishing my burger (and after Karan similarly disposed of his breakfast burrito), we sat down with them to talk about what it was like to cover the primary season for a news service like Reuters. Because Reuters focuses mainly on an international audience, their angle is significantly different than that of the traditional American press. According to Kevin, “When the primaries started, we had to explain what a primary is. The international audience is pretty much concerned with who’s going after Bush. They don’t care about health care … they care about Iran.”
The pair also discussed the implications of the youth vote. In reference to the primary two weeks ago, they said, “In Iowa, the youth vote definitely mattered. People are out voting who have never voted before.” We also talked about the difficulties of covering a subject that is so often changing at the last moment. For example, while covering Iowa, “The media didn’t even realize Huckabee was going to come out on top. We had to react to that.”
Upon our arrival in Charleston, we dealt with a plethora of transportation difficulties. It was our original intention to proceed to Aiken, S.C., the site of a supposed GOP rally featuring the prominent Republican candidates. However, after two hours of failed attempts to secure transportation to the 140-mile distant Aiken, we got in touch with Abi Nicholas, a news clerk at the Charleston Post and Courier. Abi offered to let us cover the rally with them down at the newsroom, as well as interview key members of their news staff.
When we realized that the rally in Aiken was not all it was cracked up to be, and the only candidates in attendance were individuals who were only running in South Carolina, we took Abi up on her offer and headed off to visit the Post and Courier in downtown Charleston. A 20-minute cab ride (and an unexpected stop for fuel) later, and we were in the foyer of Charleston’s most prominent newspaper. We were greeted and escorted up to the newsroom by our host, Abi, a recent graduate from the College of Charleston and former news editor of their student newspaper.
She introduced us to Robert F. Behre, the politics editor, who talked to us about the influence of the students on the race, and on the candidates’ differing approaches to swaying that segment of the vote. According to Behre, “Ron Paul and John McCain are the only Republican candidates to even acknowledge students.” He also made mention of the striking differences between this race and the S.C. 2000 primary. Behre said, “This primary is different: In the GOP eight years ago, there were only two candidates: It was a much bigger deal. Bush’s win got him the nomination. This time, there’s not a front runner, and it’s all very up in the air. There’s not as much media, and we’re all try to cover four or more campaigns.”
We then talked to Douglas Pardue, a former political correspondent, and current special features editor. Pardue used to enjoy politics, but was moved to special features after covering a heart-wrenching tale of a young girl’s tragic death. He believes, “People is what journalism is all about, not politicians … what makes people happy, and mad, and sick.” This didn’t stop him from commenting on Obama’s “star power” and the fact that “Iraq is a big deal to people, but when it comes down to it, people are going to vote for the economy.” He concluded his mini-speech with the prophetic statement, “Humans beings don’t exist in news coverage … only people with titles.”
When we were done at the Post and Courier, Abi put us in contact with the student media at the College of Charleston. There we were shown around by Sam Tyson, the editor-in-chief of the George Street Observer, the main student newspaper at the college. We saw the media building, encompassing the student radio station and television studio, as well as showing us the offices of the newspaper. We talked about the local “Bully Pulpit” series, in which presidential hopefuls are invited to come speak to crowds of 1000+ students. McCain was one of the most prominent candidates to take part in the series, and according to Tyson, it garnered him a great deal of support among the student body. Barack Obama also held a separate rally on the campus last week, drawing a large crowd of both students and townspeople. Tyson said many students are very concerned with promoting diversity on campus and they “look at the Obama candidacy as a way to be put on the map as far as being listened to.”
While briefly touring the school, we got into a fascinating discussion with an outspoken campus security guard who had opinions on every candidate and something to say about almost every happening of the election so far. When she was in school, she said, she had been a journalism major and had enjoyed covering politics and elections then. Though she is now in her second career, she still enjoys keeping up with politics and discussing it whenever possible.
On our way off of the campus, while saying our goodbyes to Tyson, a brightly colored Suburban pulled up to the curb outside of a FedEx/Kinko’s, and energetic man sprang out. We quickly determined his candidate affiliation from the veritable mural-sized portrait of Dr. Ron Paul on his vehicle, and his T-shirt sporting the phrase, “Who is Ron Paul?” The man was dashing into Kinko’s to make 700 copies of his homemade survey which he plans to conduct tomorrow himself, because he “doesn’t feel he can trust any other poll.” After introducing himself to us as W.A. Riley, he shared with us his story of traveling from primary to primary, spreading the word about his favorite candidate. In the last few weeks, the Philadelphia resident has been to Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, and plans to visit New York and New Jersey on Super Tuesday. He then proceeded into an impassioned tirade extolling the virtues of Dr. Paul, while giving us armfuls of pamphlets, papers and informational DVDs guaranteed to make us understand and agree with Paul. When he completed his spiel, he politely excused himself (after inviting us to a Paul rally Friday evening) to rush off to make his copies and prepare for his one-man protest against modern statistical methods.
While South Carolina certainly isn’t as charged as it has been in primaries in past years, it’s definitely an exciting time in a primary season where a win in the state could shift the deadlock that the leading candidates are now in. With only a short time remaining before the polls open, the rallies and last-ditch efforts on behalf of the Republican candidates and campaigns will certainly provide a great test of the organizations and efforts of the candidates and their supporters. But we certainly can’t discount the efforts and impacts of maverick campaigners such as Mr. Riley.
NEW HAVEN, 12 a.m. — The Republican field moved one step close to completely gonzo this evening as former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney plowed his way to a victory in the Michigan GOP primary. Romney upped over McCain 38 to 31 percent in the fourth such nominating contest on the Republican side of the ticket; Romney also won the relatively unimportant Wyoming GOP caucuses on January 5. The victory sets up a three, four, or five-man race for the nomination, depending on which pundits and campaign organizers you listen to. Undisputed is the fact that Romney needed a win here tonight; a loss in the state where his father successfully governed from 1963 to 1969 would have sealed the fate of the younger Romney’s 2008 Presidential bid.
he Democratic ballot, on the other hand, was notable for its lack of names. Michiganders had the opportunity to vote for New York Senator Hillary Clinton, Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd, or Ohio Representative Dennis Kucinich. Oh — and an illustrious candidate named “Uncommitted.” After learning that the National Democratic Party would penalize the state’s early primary move by stripping Michigan of delegates, Senators Barack Obama of Illinois and former North Carolina Senator John Edwards wrote off the state’s contest, choosing instead to focus their resources on South Carolina and Nevada. Results in the Palmetto State next week could hold the fate of Edwards lagging second campaign for the presidency and a victory in Nevada would give the Obama campaign a new head of steam after its New Hampshire hiccup.
With the results in, Michigan voters chose Clinton over Uncommitted by a comfortable margin of 56 to 39 percent, heading off a potentially nasty embarrassment for the former First Lady. Although he bowed out of the race after Iowa, Dodd no doubt appreciates the show of support from a few, devoted core of Michiganders — 3.417 Democrats sent their ballots his way last night, enough to garner him 1 percent of the vote.
NASHUA, N.H., 1:45 p.m. — Indeed, Arizona Senator John McCain’s campaign still has the Vietnam War feel.
Middle-aged men in trenchcoats and sneakers cruise the peripheries. Old CIA types and red-tie, blue-suit Republicans squeeze through the crowd. Even the Crowne Plaza hotel, where his victory rally was held last night, seemed to cling to the retro aesthetic.
But despite such relics, the atmosphere felt more like a Saturday night at Toad’s Place when “Don’t Stop Believing” blared out across the crowd: dancing, drinking beer, chanting. Some of the young girls even had something of the Q-Pac facial aesthetic, although they were rather more soberly dressed. Alcohol was carted in by the crate-load.
The press looked more than flummoxed.
Sitting in the hotel café at half-past-eight, waiting for McCain to appear, most reporters seemed depressed that they could not join the party. Instead, they were resolved to sit in place, fiddling with their high-tech cameras, frowning.
John McCain had won. Even before it was announced, they all new it. People jumped and danced to the White Stripes in the ballroom. Vietnam veterans congratulated one another over the cubicles in the bathroom. Young couples held hands — all an hour before McCain even appeared.
NASHUA, N.H., 1 a.m. — In a stunning reversal of fortunes, New York Senator Hillary Clinton LAW ’73 overcame Illinois Senator Barack Obama to win the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday, re-establishing herself at the top of the Democratic field and dealing a devastating blow to Obama’s surging campaign.
MUNCIE, Indiana, 5:25 p.m. — Earlier today, I was driving around the bustling town of Muncie, trying to get a few errands done before trekking back to school later this week. Typical for me, I let my mind wander. It wandered onto Saturday night’s debates on ABC.
I watched the debates then, and I watched them again Sunday on CNN. I thought I’d digested just about everything I was going to draw from the four-hour-long program, first featuring the six Republicans and then the four Democrats.
However, on my drive today, I realized a little something about the two sets of candidates. The Republicans were six white males. The Democrats consist of one white male, one black male, one Hispanic male and one white woman. Diversity, or for the former, a lack thereof. It’s so obvious that I didn’t see it.
The division between race and gender among each party’s presidential candidates is not mere coincidence. It makes a statement about the parties those candidates represent.
The Republicans appeal to a majority that has maintained power in America since the colonial period. The Democrats are the minorities who have never been adequately represented in American political life, and together, they intend to rectify history.
The second in a series of spin room interviews following this weekend’s debates.
MANCHESTER, N.H., 10:30 a.m. — Senator John McCain is surging, and his campaign is feeling good.
“We like where it stands, and it feels even better right now than it did in 2000,” said McCain chief media strategist and Bush advertising czar Mark McKinnon (pictured) after the Republican debate Saturday night. “It looks like lightning is striking twice.”
For the McCain campaign, the goal is either a win or to finish “close” to the winner, McKinnon said.
NORMAN, Oklahoma, 5:25 p.m. — David Boren ’63 is no stranger to notable political figures. In the past year, the former Oklahoma senator and governor — an affable man popular in this state — has hosted Colin Powell, Al Gore, George H.W. Bush ’48 and Mitt Romney in his role as president of the University of Oklahoma.
But tomorrow Boren, also a former Yale Corporation trustee, will join nearly a dozen well known, like-minded moderates, including several of his former colleagues from the Senate, in a bipartisan political forum that has been billed as an attempt to encourage national political leaders to bring an end to partisanship and polarization.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s presence has many political analysts speculating that the forum will be a further opportunity for Bloomberg to flirt with an independent presidential run. But Bloomberg has denied the rumor, saying the forum is strictly intended to find an independent alternative for government.
No matter what happens at this meeting of centrists in the geographic center of the nation, the Yale Daily News will be there. Look forward to an exclusive online update tomorrow afternoon.
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., 11:35 p.m. — Democratic advisers are out in force in the spin room right now. Reporters are beginning to decamp from Saint Anselm, and the News will leave soon, too.
But check back — among the spinners we caught up with are Elizabeth Edwards; David Axelrod, the chief Obama stategist; Mark Penn, the chief Clinton strategist; Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina; Gov. Deval Patrick, Mitt Romney’s successor in Massachusetts; and Mark McKinnon, the McCain media consultant and the architect of President Bush’s media blitzes.
Oh, and we saved the best for last —now that the debate is over, the Internet in the spin room is working flawlessly.