Concord, N.H., 4:50 p.m.: I am on the McCain Straight Talk Express. I haven't been on since the spring, when he was still Front-Runner McCain. Back then, he had a very fancy bus. This one is more fitting his style and his penny-pinching campaign. It's like the tour bus for some Motown one-hit wonder and looks just like the one from 2000 on which I spent many months. The scene is identical to eight years ago: McCain in the middle of a semicircular banquette squished between reporters who worry that they're going to run out of questions. Former Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge is traveling with McCain and is also back in the little room, jostling with us. McCain is talking to his wife before the bus gets rolling. "John Dickerson is back with us," he tells her. "He's lost a lot of his hair." (permalink)
Concord, N.H., 4:28 p.m.: I am not where I need to be. It's the Neverlost Lady's fault. She is better on the wide open roads of Iowa, where you can drive 400 miles and never take two turns. The flinty New Hampshire roads confuse her. I am at the end of a one-way street looking at the McCain bus, where I am trying to get myself, but unable to cross this highway. I could just ditch the car in the snow bank here and walk. (permalink)
Londonderry, N.H., 3:41 p.m.: Romney arrives in the cafeteria at Insight Technology. He's spending a quick day in New Hampshire before heading back out to Iowa, where he has launched a tough new ad knocking Mike Huckabee for his crime record as governor of Arkansas. He's at a plant that makes night-vision goggles, which are known in the business as "targeting solutions," one of those great military euphemisms. In the audience, local politicians wore Santa hats. The room is filled with about 200 or so people, many of whom work at the company.
During a riff that he often tells about greeting the casket of a soldier killed in Iraq as it returned to the United States, he appeared to get emotional, as he imagined if it were one of his five sons. I have a higher emotional threshold before I can graft on meaning, but I bet it gets coverage both because he famously compared his son's working on his campaign to military service and because we're all watching whether he cries after his Meet the Press appearance, in which tears came to his eyes when talking about the Mormon church decision to end discrimination.
At a press availability afterward, Romney was asked about his new show of emotion, and he said, "I'm a normal person. I have emotions." It reminded me of that line from The Elephant Man: "I am not an animal. I am a human being." (permalink)
Londonderry, N.H., 1:45 p.m.: I am waiting for Gov. Romney to arrive, and while I talk to one of his staffers, the sound guy checks the equipment. "One two yeah, one two, check, check, one two. Check one check two, one two. One, check, one two. Check one two. Check."
I realize after I finish my conversation that he's been doing this strange poetry slam for 15 minutes without interruption. "Yeah, ah, ah, oh, wowh. Two, oooo, oooooh, two, one." It was like he was either at a doctor's office or in a porn film. (permalink)