What it’s really like on the campaign trail

Jon Huntsman at a town hall in Keene, NH on Jan. 8

Dana Milbank wrote a great piece on Tuesday about what it’s really like for journos covering candidates. If I had sat down to write a summary myself, I couldn’t have done a better job.

With an opening line like, “I’ve long suspected that if editors knew how little journalism occurs on the campaign trail, they would never pay our expenses,” you know the column is going to be great.

Milbank ticked off the problems all journalists, even novice ones, run into when covering a campaign. Probably the biggest problem is the fact that no matter where you go, there are about 150 other journalists at the same event and most of the time, not that many voters.

The first event I went to in New Hampshire was outside a small, hometown convenience store/restaurant. Rick Santorum was behind the store, which was conveniently overlooking a lake. With the scenic waters behind him, amid the naked trees and piles of brown leaves, Santorum stood, surrounded by hundreds of reporters and maybe a dozen voters.

Milbank also touches on other campaign truths, like the fact the journalists aren’t even in the same room as the candidates during the debate and during campaign stops, candidates more often concentrate on the TV camera than the voters.

That’s not to say the trip wasn’t worth it. It was rewarding to get up close to candidates, talk to voters (when they were around) and even meet some of the big names in journalism–who mostly like to hang out together. It was just hard–emotionally and physically. I never thought I’d say this, but by day 4 of the trip, I was actually tired of walking up to random strangers and asking for their opinion.


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