Flight attendants play good cop, bad cop.

Politics on the road.
Dec. 14 2007 12:36 PM

Nasty and Nice

What I've learned about flight attendants this holiday season.

(Continued from Page 1)

Johnston, Iowa, 3:30 p.m. CT. Mitt Romney loves peanut-butter blossoms. This he tells the dozen or so supporters after the GOP debate at the home of John and Sheryl Dutcher. The house is decked out for the holidays. White poinsettias dot the family room, and the cookies all seem to have a holiday theme. A bowl of peanuts is just out of reach for me.

Romney is standing before a fireplace over which hangs a picture of the Dutcher daughters, dressed in green velvet. He's going on a bit about those blossoms until someone pipes up that the host has actually made one of the other cookie offerings. A challenge: does he flip-flop and pander to the host, or stay firm? The cameras are rolling. "There's no cookie I don't like more than peanut-butter blossoms," he says. This is a strong candidate.

Ann Romney stands next to her husband, a vision in hot pink. He hands her the microphone, and she talks about their glistening family. Then she addresses concerns about his Mormon faith by noting this fact from his gubernatorial campaign: "It was a Catholic state, but a lot of Catholics voted for Mitt."

Romney's main pitch is that people need to bring their friends to the polls. We are standing in the largest GOP precinct in all of Iowa. He also reiterates the same message his campaign aides are pushing about Mike Huckabee's rise. "There have been a lot of surges," he says, speaking about the polls. "I've survived them all. The McCain surge, the Thompson surge, and now the Huckabee surge. And then it's followed by the agonizing re-appraisal. Slow and steady wins this race, and I'm going to win." (permalink)

Johnston, Iowa (some guy's lawn), 3:10 p.m. CT. "Are you going to see Mitt?" yells a man standing with his father on his frozen lawn, as I fall out of my rental car onto the frozen streets.

"Tell him to seal the borders."

"Okay," I say.

"That other guy coming up wants to let them in."

"Huckabee?"

"Wants to give them college scholarships," yells the man standing next to him.

"But Jim Gilchrist the Minuteman guy is supporting him."

"I know. How can that be?"

"He says he likes his current plan."

"Tell Mitt to seal the borders." (permalink)

Johnston, Iowa, 2 p.m. CT. The spin room after the Republican debate was no bigger than the pantries of most middle-class homes. This led to a piling up of bodies and jostling as reporters and surrogates for the campaigns tried to talk to each other. The frenetic movement of so many people in such proximity is the kind of thing certain candidates would have campaigned against in the past, but it's a whole different Republican Party now.

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 "I haven't been through something like this since labor," said Mary Matalin, who was there as a volunteer for Fred Thompson. Spin rooms are silly. A candidate could disrobe and then expire behind his podium, and his people would go in the spin room and proclaim him the next president. This being the case, I was happy to leave. (permalink)

Johnston, Iowa, 12:36 p.m. CT. I am now at the GOP Des Moines Register debate in a tiny, windowless room where I am shoulder to shoulder with my colleagues. Someone's computer is dying, or someone's making a margarita. The moderator of the debate is standing on a very precarious riser. If she steps back, it's curtains.

Alan Keyes is participating in this debate, which makes me feel like it is 1996. It also means anything could happen because Keyes is very far off the beam. I was not aware the presidential race in 2008 needed more wacky long-shot candidates. (permalink)

Urbandale, Iowa, 11 a.m. CT. I spent the morning interviewing an official from the Clinton campaign. The strategy for the last 22 days: women and health care. They're going to push hard on Clinton's appeal to women and talk about health care as much as they can. Democrats care about that issue above all others (except, perhaps, for the war), and it's a good issue for Clinton because voters trust her on it. They also think they can put Obama on the defensive on the issue of universality.

Then it was off to watch John McCain briefly at a Bennigan's in Urbandale, Iowa. All the other candidates took the morning off to relax before the debate. McCain relaxes by going to rallies. His campaign has found that he's better in the debates if he's had a warm-up event.