We in the press corps were warned. A memo advised cooperation and patience in adapting to the new security measures. But who would have thought some would yearn for the days of yesteryear, of high-speed minivans and events held in small town libraries across Iowa's smallest counties? Of those long and never-ending days that inherently provided more than enough time for any and all of our questions. Of hallway shots and backstage access when a simple nod to Sam Meyers Sr. or Iowa spokeswoman Kim Rubey would yield a quick one-on-one interview with the Senator before or after an event?
Gone. Instead, an eight-car caravan ferries the Senator to and from plane to campaign events well before or after the press. Luggage screened and re-screened, long lines to get into events and mandatory huddles before leaving them. Seats immediately outside the Senator's cabin on the plane, once available on to any member of the travel press corps with enough energy to get off the bus in the first wave, have been claimed by agents and are most definitely not subject to negotiation. Instead, the press corps is relegated to the back compartments and must wait for a glimpse of the candidate. No more impromptu press conferences upon lift-off, no more shadowing the candidate in the middle of enthusiastic crowds, inches away and privy to off-the-cuff conversation with voters.
Edwards' long-wished for two-man race brings similar trappings for both press and candidate. Seemingly endless in-depth scrutiny is on the horizon for us both: our equipment, his electability. Ups and downs (access or no access for us, energetic or tepid crowds for him). And finally, the uncertainty of what exactly the future will hold post-March 2.
Edwards is doing everything in his power to outpace Kerry. Despite no word from the Kerry campaign in response to his challenge for additional debates, Edwards continues to tell crowds he believes they deserve a one on one match-up. He fights his way to the front of reporters' radar screens on issues big and small, Monday pre-empting Bush's speech with his own response, before Kerry's. And his staff makes sure the press is aware of each and ever endorsement, however big or small, that comes his way. This despite the very public opinion Edwards' has of endorsements in general; in the end they are but one item on a long list of things voters consider.
Does the taste of the trail reflect his style these days? Are crowds as determined as the Senator seems to be? The crowd in New York was a more of a photo op and Q&A than a rebel raising Minnesota brouhaha. And in smaller places like Albany and Columbus, where several hundred showed up, his go-to laugh and applause lines sometimes fell a bit flat. Predictions, at this point, will remain withheld.
Edwards starts Tuesday morning in Atlanta with a fundraiser and run (the first trailed by Secret Service) before departing for Houston early afternoon.
The Wheels on the Bus …
ROCHESTER, N.Y., Feb. 22 — Those are the lyrics as sung by the Edwards press corps en route to the last stop of the day on Sunday aboard a yellow school bus warning: No Swearing and No Standing in the Aisle.
Sunday afternoon the Edwards press corps meandered through a crowd made up of locked out employees formerly of RMI Titanium in Niles, Ohio. Both groups waited for the Senator, watching their breath vanish into a cold February sky tinged with the smell of burning wood.