Living in an early primary state comes with certain opportunities and certain annoyances.
Among the latter are incessant advertising through every form of media which leads one to eventually missing low budget ads from auto dealerships and sleazy local attorneys. But it also leads to unique opportunities to get a little closer to these campaigns and their candidates.
This year, I decided to immerse myself in it for a few days.
It’s been more than a week now since the Republican primary here in South Carolina, so I thought I’d briefly describe my experience of it. I attended campaign events and rallies for three major candidates:
|My view of Rick Santorum|
The first visit to a campaign stop was not planned in advance at all. I had said that I really wanted to hit a campaign event (didn’t care who) just for the experience.
What originally caused us to head to Spartanburg on Wednesday morning, however, was not Rick Santorum, but the Duggar family (you know, “20 Kids and Counting”). A bunch of them were scheduled to make an appearance at a Christian bookstore.
Sometimes we watch their show, and Keri just thought it would be fun to go see them. Unfortunately, only two of them were at the bookstore event. So we decided to head a mile up the road to the Beacon, a local hole in the wall that is famous for… I’m not sure. It’s a poor man’s Varsity, if you’re familiar with that iconic Atlanta establishment.
And once there, we were, in fact, in the middle of a genuine presidential campaign event. Santorum gave a nice version of his stump speech, and it was actually interesting to hear the whole thing instead of 30-60 second soundbites you get in a debate.
There was a warm crowd, a large media contingent (including a rather surly Carl Cameron from FoxNews), and all that stuff. And, yes, there were a bunch more Duggars present as well, so mission accomplished.
We left feeling glad we had experienced a slice of a real Presidential campaign. We thought that would be it, but as it turned out, several other opportunities emerged.
|My view of Ron Paul|
I’ve always been intrigued by Ron Paul and his outside-the-box message, style, and campaign. His strict adherence to the Constitution and libertarian approach to most domestic issues is very attractive and sensible to me. His much-maligned foreign policy is not perfect, but overall I like him very much. (In fact, I think he’s the most likable guy in the campaign). I recently wrote a longer take on Ron Paul here.
So I decided to catch Ron Paul in a hangar near the downtown Greenville airport as he was barnstorming the state on the eve of the primary.
That crowd was dramatically different than the Santorum crowd – younger, much more raucous, and fervently devoted to their guy. They’re generally convinced that they are the vanguard of a real revolution, and who knows – perhaps they are. In fact, I wouldn’t be disappointed if they’re right.
For his part, Paul was exactly what you’d expect. He was like a nice, sincere grandfather enjoying a chance to see the family. He is who he is all the time, I guess, which is pretty refreshing in a politician. Though I was soaked from rain, the experience was worth it.
|Enthusiastically awaiting their guy|
|Less enthusiastically waiting|
Our family expedition to see Mitt Romney was almost completely spontaneous. We were talking about it at dinner with my in-laws, and the next thing you know, we’re all heading downtown after dinner to catch the last pre-election rally for Mitt Romney, which would also feature SC governor Nikki Haley and VA governor Bob McDonnell.
|Not the best photo of Romney!|
|Nikki Haley with Ann Romney
& Bob McDonnell
Now this was a top-end political event, staged by an experienced crew. The room was stuffed with enthusiastic, made-for-TV sign-waving supporters. There was music thumping (the kind of classic rock Americana style you expect at these things). There was an oversized American flag and a huge contingency of local and national media.
The room was hot and the boys (age 6 and 4) were pretty miserable (after all, they could see nothing and the crowd was thick). We learned that my in-laws were in an overflow room and that the stars of the show would be coming by to greet those in the overflow room, so we decided to head that way.
|Ann Romney seems to be the
most popular person in the room
The next thing you know, I’m with the boys and their grandparents right in the front/center of a small stage in the overflow room. After a nearly insufferable wait, we found ourselves a couple feet from the Romneys, Haleys, and McDonnells.
Somehow I made eye contact with Romney and he came over to shake hands with the boys and I, as did his wife and, a couple minutes later, Governor Haley.
Everyone thought that the experience was pretty cool, and I think my oldest son, age 6, will likely remember it. He didn’t want to leave, actually, wanting to head back to the main room to hear the speech (which is ironic, because he was quite vocal in not wanting to go at first).
Before you ask, yes I voted in the Republican primary. I could not decide on a candidate until I was walking into a booth to vote. And I remain conflicted about my choice. Suffice to say that, from my perspective, each of the candidates has pronounced strengths and pronounced weaknesses, and I could have given my vote to any of the three I saw on the trail.
I’m glad that we took some time to experience the campaigns this way, though. It was honestly pretty cool.