American Dispatch: On The Campaign Trail With Obama

By FOX News Radio’s Rich Johnson, traveling with the Obama campaign

“Wow! You’re going to five cities. Tell me what you think of them.”

That’s what I hear from people when they learn about these marathon campaign trips. Four years ago, I lost count of the towns I, uh, ‘visited’ in the final two weeks of John McCain’s campaign. And now I’m just back from President Obama’s two-day marathon.

So first, let’s debunk the myth. On trips like this, we reporters (and the candidate’s staffers and the candidate) see the charter plane, buses taking us from the plane to the event, the event, the buses again and the plane again. That’s pretty much it. The weather changes and the geography of the moment changes. But the event is the same from city to city.

Here’s how it all began in Davenport, Iowa.

There have been some equipment upgrades since the Obama-McCain campaign – especially when it comes to being a radio reporter.

On the other hand, some things about a big campaign trip NEVER change!

Not only do we seldom see a city, often we never see the cool part of airports. The charter plane usually parks well away from the terminal to accommodate our buses. Scenery is NOT part of the itinerary.

Even with the comforts of a charter plane, flying from eastern Iowa to Denver and then to Tampa takes it out of you. Or in this case: Me!

But when you sign up for the long haul, you set two alarms and enjoy every minute of down time before it’s time to get on yet another bus.

And we’re not along. By Thursday morning, even the President was feeling it, as he acknowledged that his voice was getting hoarse.

Still, the Democratic faithful didn’t care. The crowds were huge: 16,000 in Denver, 15,000 in Tampa and more than 12,000 in Cleveland.

Those people, like at the other stops, endured long security lines, then waited hours to hear President Obama’s 16-minute stump speech. That kind of ‘down time’ can inspire a road-weary reporter to reflect.

But finally it’s over, and we’re back on the plane for a final one-hour flight back to Joint Base Andrews outside Washington, DC.

LISTEN to FOX News Radio’s Rich Johnson reporting from the road with the Obama campaign: