Saturday, January 26, 2008

Columbia, SC 10:15pm "That's all she wrote"

The polls were practically dead on this time. Actually, they didn't give Obama enough credit. I've been at Edwards' headquarters to see the South Carolina Democratic Primary results come in.

It was amazing, as 7:00pm hit and the polls closed the networks immediately called Sen. Obama the winner. What's amazing is no one even responded in the Edwards crowd. As numbers came in and Edwards would pick up a percentage point or so there would be some screams but it was clear the results were inevitable in the minds of his supporters.

They were hoping for a second but despite another third place finish most of his supporters refuse to believe he will lose. The others are hoping for either a delegate split at the convention and something funny happening or they hope he's a VP candidate or uses the pulpit to push issues, in particular, health care and global warming.

As Edwards took the stage the crowd was extremely energetic and exciting. That was something we didn't see much of all week. His crowds were subdued compared to what I remember in '04.

Anywho, I have a deadline and need to get my work done and get to bed because I am sick as a dog. We've worked for two straight weeks now and are looking forward to several days off. I may still try to update the blog here and there but it all depends on how the relaxing is going!

Just a few quick thanks from SC to our staff back in Raleigh who helped us get these stories on air and especially Political Connections. Our bosses were phenomenal for letting us dictate a large part of the coverage on the trip.

Mark Barger, our Chief Photographer, shot all that great video you saw in my stories and is extremely creative in his suggestions for my stories. It was a blessing to have him with me on this trip.

Thank all of you for reading this blog, and hopefully enjoying it! Without you, this would essentially be a journal for myself. I hope this showed you a little bit more of what life is like on the trail beyond our stories you see on tv.

Most of all, I have to thank my wife. For two weeks she had to hear me talk about all these crazy things we were doing and she was stuck at home alone with our moron black lab! Honey, I love you and can't wait to see you tomorrow...You're the Best! 402

Catch all of you on the flip side because for now our Presidential campaign trail is sending us home, and we can't wait!
Columbia, SC 6:00pm

One hour to closing time, at the polls that is. There are about 25 satellite trucks lined up in an alley within about five feet of each other. I can only imagine what it must be like at Obama's headquarters.

We are at a restaurant/gamery/nightclub called Gillians which will serve as John Edwards hangout tonight. I'm told by his press secretary that Elizabeth Edwards will not be here (she hasn't been here all week). She said that Elizabeth is home with the two younger kids taking care of things and getting some rest before Super Tuesday. It makes sense yet it strikes me odd with South Carolina being Edwards' native state.

Cate Edwards, his daughter, has been here for about an hour mingling and talking with folks. His supporters can start arriving at 7:00pm when the polls close.

Essentially the entire dance floor is gone and in one corner there is a stage with black curtains and there's a runway leading off the stage to stage left. A huge American flag covers part of the curtains and two tall John Edwards signs are on either side of the stage.

Across from the stage in two directions are big risers with probably 25-30 tv cameras and lights. Behind the riser is a bunch of tables set up for newspaper and internet folks.

I'm told Edwards was having meetings today about Super Tuesday states and planned to go for a run sometime this afternoon. He probably won't get here until sometime between 8:30-10:00 depending on how fast the election is called.
Good morning!

Well, we're hearing they may see record turnout here in South Carolina on Primary day. They had 274,000 in 2004 and are hoping for 350,000+. It is sunny and seasonable as far as temps go so there appears to be a steady line at most precincts according to election officials.

We are working tonight but have already had quite a day. Remember when I said I was getting a cold? You might have noticed my voice was a little funny the last day or two. Well, I had to go to Urgent Care this morning and I have bronchitis. So, a little trip to the pharmacy and I'm on my way. I'll be honest, I can't wait to get home tomorrow and spend a little time in bed recuperating.

The brakes on my news vehicle have gotten worse and worse over this trip so we had to drop that off to get fixed as well!

Anyway, you don't care about that. We're headed to a polling place to check the pulse of voters then we're headed down to John Edwards' rally to set up. He's in the same location he was in 2004 but if the polls are right it won't be the best celebration for the candidate in his career.

We also have a crew coming down from our Charlotte station and they will be hanging out with the Barack Obama crowd, who is also in Columbia. Hillary Clinton is headed to Tennessee today.

So, we're off. I'll update as the day goes on.

Until then...

Friday, January 25, 2008

Just a quick update about Edwards staying in the race.

He says he's staying in regardless of what happens tomorrow and he must mean it, at least according to his schedule.

Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday he has public rallies scheduled in Georgia, Tennessee, and Missouri.
Columbia, SC

I went to one of Edwards' last campaign stops in South Carolina this afternoon. It was a youth voter organization rally. The group of college kids from 23 campuses nationwide helps get attention to the importance of the youth vote in the election.

About 200 packed the room and close to half if not more were over the age of 40. It's pretty clear by Obama's appearances on numerous college campuses that he has a large chunk of the youth vote in his basket.

Edwards was pushing that he's an underdog but he is the only candidate that will care about South Carolina after Saturday.

He went on to say a number of unflattering things about Hillary Clinton which some could say he's working voters to get second in South Carolina.

Regardless, he reiterated that he's staying in the race regardless of what happens on Saturday.

I have to mention again that we have not seen Elizabeth Edwards a single time this week. I still haven't heard if she will be her tomorrow as well. Cate, his daughter, has been here all week as have his parents campaigning all over the state.

After complaining about media attention nearly all week, Edwards had his largest turnout when it comes to tv stations.

My colleagues from the other Raleigh stations are now here. ABC network had a crew here with a reporter. BET was here and CNN pulled him aside for an interview as well.

While Edwards says he's gaining, his supporters were talking about Edwards getting the nod as a VP candidate.

Should be an interesting weekend!
Columbia, South Carolina "Presidential Parallel?"

So, I was thinking last night about the Democratic and Republican races for President. There are some clear differences among the Republican candidates, yet they get along fairly well and are not battling in the press. On the Democratic side, Obama and Clinton(s) have many similar plans. For instance, they both have tuition aid plans that only differ by $500. In essence, their policies are very similar with minor differences in funding or how it's operated. Yet, they are arguing about work they did 20-30 years ago before they were even politicians and it is, to say the least, nasty.

In North Carolina's race for governor, there are clear differences with the Republicans yet they do little bickering with each other in the press (although that appears to be changing a bit). On the Democratic side, they have very similar beliefs yet spend most of their time arguing in the press about a theater that sits in a rural county that many voters probably don't even know exists. That campaign is close to getting nasty.

Maybe I'm dead wrong, but it appears there are some similarities to the two races.

Anywho, we are here and plan to attend a "get the youth vote" rally at the convention center where John Edwards, his parents, and daughter will all attend.

The candidates are all making 4-6 campaign stops across the state today compared to the typical 2 or 3.

Make sure to watch Political Connections tonight at 6pm on News 14 Carolina. We'll be doing the show from here in South Carolina.

I'll be back...after Edwards' event...

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Greenville, South Carolina "Seen them all"

So, we're at Furhman Univesity. That's where Hillary Clinton made her first campaign appearance in South Carolina since the debate Monday night. We have now seen every single candidate that has stepped foot in South Carolina since we got here on January 14th.

Clinton (who's husband, President Clinton, is traveling elsewhere in SC) used the opportunity to talk the economy. It comes on the same day that negotiators in Congress are cutting a deal from President Bush's plan to cut checks for Americans to surge the struggling economy.

Her ideas focus on freezing foreclosures for 90 days, icing interest rate hikes for 5 years, offering tax rebates, and creating more jobs through the "green" economy.

First, the security was much less than Obama which surprised me because she is the former First Lady. Unlike Obama, there were no security machines or lines to go through. They didn't check our bags and it was fairly easy to move through the crowd.

She gave a 30-45 minute speech and then took questions from the audience. Unlike many of the candidates, who to me seemed different in one way or the other in person, she was exactly what I thought she would be like based on what I've seen on TV. I mean that as in she looks, sounds, and acts just like she does on TV. Some of the others I've seen looked much different in person, had more or less energy, were more funny or more dull, etc.

After her speech she took a number of questions for about 20 minutes. People asked her about her vote on the war, health plans, etc. The one thing I notice in these question and answer sessions is that people are really really open about their problems and they ask very specific questions about their problem. At an Edwards event a lady asked about the foster care system based on a horrific problem in her own life. It's kind of interesting to see how the candidates react and shows that people want a candidate who will deal with THEIR problems more than the country's problems.

In terms of energy and excitement at events from supporters I would rate the candidate appearances as follows.
1. Barack Obama
2. Michelle Obama
3. John Edwards
4. Hillary Clinton

A couple disclaimers-Clinton's event here was more of a speech but she did have about 200 people in the room. Also, our Barack Obama event had Usher and Chris Tucker, but we have heard his crowds are extremely energetic every time.

By the way most of the candidates both R's and D's travel in huge luxurious buses with their names and faces on the side as they go from town to town. Sen. Clinton did not have a bus. She traveled in a black SUV with a similar SUV in front, a van, and several state troopers on either side.

Anywho, we're headed back to Columbia after we edit our story to start putting Political Connections together for tomorrow night at 6:00pm on News 14 Carolina.

Until's fast food and a desperate search for a radio station!
Columbia, SC Where to begin...

Where to begin oh where to begin. So, we decided to go to a Michelle Obama event in Columbia this afternoon. My idea was to do a story about her as a spouse and what she thinks her role is in the campaign. I figured I would ask for an interview and I honestly thought it would happen because she's not with Barack Obama and I didn't think it would be a huge event.

About 180 showed up to see her on the campus of the University of South Carolina. She spoke for about 35 minutes to an energetic crowd.

After the event I asked her friendly handlers if we could get an interview. After a few minutes, they escorted us to a back hallway where I interviewed Mrs. Obama about her role in the campaign, what she would do as First Lady, her family connections to South Carolina, and what role she thinks race should play in this election. Click on her picture to watch the full interview here.

I thought it was a great interview and we'd have a great story but didn't think much more than that. As we walked back into the main room there were several media members huddled around the door. I noticed them looking at us with a quizzed and slightly frightened face. As we began to pack up our gear an ABC news producer asked if I interviewed Mrs. Obama. She was clearly concerned when I said yes. ABC reporter/Wknd GMA Anchor Kate Snow then approached me and asked if I asked her about Bill Clinton. They were both clearly disappointed when I said no, but they still asked if they could get a dub of our interview.

What a role reversal! Usually local reporters end up humbly walking away with our tails between our legs as national reporters get their up close one on one interviews.

Now, maybe I'm a bad journalist for not asking Mrs. Obama about the Bill Clinton/Barack Obama spat. Here's the deal, I knew it was a big national news story, but I did not know the interview was such an exclusive. Apparently, ABC has been asking for an interview with her for weeks, even months. Anyway, I figured the national crews would get an interview and would focus on her reaction to the Clinton/Obama fighting. Therefore, I was hoping to provide our viewers with a different story instead of doing what everybody else was doing.

I mean, I get it's a huge story, but in the end I think it's more important what Mrs. Obama thinks about race relations in this country and what she would want to advocate as First Lady. Again, I may have been wrong but I just never realized my interview was so rare.

By the way, Ms. Snow and her crew were all very nice and down to earth unlike other crews we have worked with. Granted they wanted our tape but it was clear they are good people.

In the end, you might see our interview on various ABC news programs. Since, we didn't ask about Bill Clinton you may not, but the race issue here in SC is heating up so perhaps that was the better question to ask in the long run.

For now, it has made ABC News' website.

Click here to see it.

Here's the gist of what she said about race in this campaign.

“You know race is still an important issue in this country. You know there are still so many things that are impacted by race -- whether it’s health. We know that there’s still health disparities that exist. There are women that are African American that are dying of higher rates of breast cancer. So the issue is real."

“Our belief is that the decision of who will be the next president will not be based solely on race or gender. You know, my deep hope is that people will base their decision on who they think they can trust. Who’s got a vision for the country? Who’s bringing a different, you know, tone to politics and who’s going to really take this country in a different direction? And quite frankly, I think the only person that comes close to that is Barack. And he happens to be a black man,” she said.

I'll write more about the interview but hopefully you'll see it with your own eyes in the morning. In the meantime, it's nearly 1:00am and we have to be up at 7:00 to hit the road and cover Hillary Clinton..

Until then...

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Orangeburg, South Carolina

Good morning from South Carolina. I am waking up with a cold this morning which makes my voice a little funny on television! If you read my previous entries, we were here to see Obama, Usher, Chris Tucker, and Kerry Washington last night.

The crowd was balistic as Tucker spoke briefly in his signature voice but didn't say too much too funny. The crowd was shaking and the ladies were blowing kisses to Usher. Obama had to wait until they left the building because the crowd wasn't paying attention to him!!

Anywho, we are going to Columbia this afternoon to see Obama's wife, Michelle. We're going to do a story about the spouses campaigning for their significant others. Bill Clinton is traveling the state by himself as well. We haven't seen Elizabeth Edwards yet but expect to this weekend.

I'll keep you posted as the day goes on! Tomorrow we head to a Hillary Clinton event and our colleagues in Charlotte will go to Seneca for Edwards last hometown hurrah before the vote Saturday.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Orangeburg, South Carolina

I'm on a riser at the Barack Obama event at South Carolina State University. Wow! So he was literally an hour late but the crowd didn't care. First actor Chris Tucker took the stage and the students went crazy. I swear you would think their favorite team won a championship. Next, actress Kerry Washington came in to a decent applause, then the ladies went wild when Usher came out. Usher actually spoke for about 5 minutes and had the crowd silenced talking about the importance of voting and, in his belief, voting for Barack Obama.

I have to tell you they were even louder for Obama when he came out. It was electric in this place.

This is my first person watching Obama in person. He's very energetic, talking off the cuff with the audience, and lively. It's probably tough for him to be that way. This is his fifth campus of the day and he's headed back out first thing in the morning.
Orangeburg, SC Hurry up and wait...

So we're now in Orangeburg which is about 2 1/2 hours from Conway, where we were earlier. It's not too far from Columbia and is home to South Carolina State University.

That's where Barack Obama is holding an event tonight with singer Usher, actress Kerry Washington and now we're being told actor Chris Tucker.

Now let me tell you covering Obama is a completely different story than the Republicans and even John Edwards. He has secret service protection. That means we have to get here super super early and go through long lines to get all of our equipment checked. Once we do that we get inside and then sit here like we are about an hour and a half before the event starts.

There is clearly a buzz and excitement on the campus and in the basketball arena where the event will be held.

I talked to a number of students who claim they are here to see Obama and not Usher. There are gates up everywhere and it looks more like a concert scene. This is one of several stops at universities in South Carolina for Obama as he tries to catch the younger, independent vote.

It should an interesting night. For now, we hurry up and wait!

UPDATE: The event was supposed to start at 8:00. It's 8:35 and it's clear we're not starting anytime soon. Don't get me wrong, we haven't seen an event start on time since we crossed the state line but this is really late. The problem is likely that he has been a few minutes late event after event and it added up to being really late here.

Another note on the security. At the Republican's events and John Edwards' events we wait to get them coming off the bus and are free to roam anywhere in the room to shoot video. Here, we can't move off of a riser. Just another change this week as Obama and Clinton have Secret Service. The crowd is hyped though. A church choir sang earlier and revved everybody up.
Conway, South Carolina

Good afternoon from Conway which is about 15 miles west of Myrtle Beach. It was the site of a John Edwards rally Tuesday morning. This was his first post debate event and he was joined by his parents but still no Elizabeth Edwards.

He held the event in an old peanut warehouse. His crowd was a bit larger and bit more energized than other events I've attended recently. There was probably a 100-150 people.

Polls are showing Edwards came out looking good to voters after Clinton and Obama spent most of their time bickering at each other. Edwards told the crowd he came out as the only grown up Democrat in last night's debate.

After the appearance he told us he's not sure if it will translate to votes because he believes he's still struggling to get media attention and the networks might focus soley on the Obama/Clinton debacle despite what the polls are saying.

This was his only campaign appearance today. He's headed to New York City tonight for an appearance on the David Letterman Show. He heads back to SC tomorrow and will barnstorm small towns across the state with actor Danny Glover and the actor that played Cooter on Dukes of Hazzard.

Our Charlotte crew covering the Primary is covering Bill Clinton today which means we would miss Obama campaigning with actress Kerry Washington and R&B singer Usher. Therefore, we are going to wrap up our story here in a bit and head to the Obama event. We could wait and get Obama tomorrow but this is the only event with those special guests and I think it's worth it to go because it's a good story about trying to get young, independent voters.

I'll keep you posted! It's finally getting to 50 degrees today thank goodness!!!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Time to spin...

The debate has ended and I'm mentally tired, I can only imagine what the candidates and perhaps even more Wolf Blitzer must feel like!!!

After every debate there is what's known as the spin room. It's a place where all the media hangs out and waits for spinsters to come. It's a mob scene. Literally, there are two or three people standing with signs surrounding a person. Then there is usually a dozen or so cameras, microphones, and reporters cramming in a half circle around the person.

The people or spinsters are usually advisors for the campaigns and try to push why their candidate did the best, was right, and essentially should become the nominee. This time since it was MLK day, many members of the Congressional Black Caucus (who hosted the debate with CNN) were there in the spin room as well.

That's where we got a chance to chat with Rep. Mel Watt who represents the 12th District (Charlotte area) in North Carolina. He said it was clear that Edwards was the only adult in the debate and it was a good thing he was there to moderate it.

We also had a chance to talk with Edwards' daughter Cate who pretty much said the same thing. Click the picture of Rep. Watt and Cate Edwards to watch both interviews.

We have to pack up a ton of equipment and get back to the hotel because it's already 11:10 and have to be on the road by 8:30 again tomorrow morning.

We're working on getting some one on one time with Senator Edwards at that event.

I'll keep you posted!

Let's get ready to rumble!!!!

Holy cow, what a wild night! Before the debate we were able to hear the Executive Producer of the debate talking the audience about what would happen. He said it would be different and just as ground breaking as the Youtube debate. He said there would be no timers, no bells, and the second half would be a no holds barred type of question and answer.


Within the first ten minutes the political punches began flying like a fighter fighting for his life. Obama and Clinton went after each other and went hard. They argued back and forth for close to ten minutes without Edwards even appearing on the screen. When he had a chance Edwards threw a huge uppercut asking the two candidates how their arguing would lead to helping the American people.

I've never seen so much candid moments, fighting, and even laughter in a debate. The pundits will debate whether that is good or bad. It was definitely entertaining and I'm not a fan of bickering back and forth which we avoid on Political Connections.

The question is if Edwards can get a positive push from this debate because Obama and Clinton may have looked silly or negative for the way they acted. Or, will he be completely ignored by voters and, just as important, by the media because the focus will be on the debacle between Obama and Clinton.

I can tell you one thing outside of the debate, and I literally mean it outside, IT'S FREEZING! We have to go to our truck and in and out of the building and it is freezing. There are about 40 satellite trucks out here and the people working cameras and trucks are all wearing gloves and winter hats. Are you sure this isn't New Hampshire or Iowa??

I wasn't sure where I was going tomorrow, but I now know for sure we're going to see Edwards at a rally tomorrow morning in Conway. I'm fascinated to hear what he has to say about tonight's debate.

I need to get workin on my story so have a great night! I hear it could be a messy commute for you all in NC so drive safe!!
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

If you think Myrtle Beach is crazy in the summer you ought to see it now. In a few hours the Democratic Presidential candidates will debate here at the Palace Theater.

Umm...the security is secure to say the least. We had to drop off our satellite truck at the theater yesterday and couldn't move it an inch after that. The media filing center is at a seafood restaurant two blocks down the road!!! CNN rented out this restaurant. So, the newspaper, radio, and internet folks won't even be on the same side of the road. We have our satellite truck right next to the theater so that's a good thing. However, we will never be allowed in the debate hall and will never even see the candidates.

That's why we have spent a lot of time outside to show more than what you would see on tv. The security is insane. With the Republicans you could walk right up to the candidate and say hello. It's different with Obama and Clinton. They both have secret service and then you add on Bill Clinton and it might as well be a Secret Service reunion or conference.

There are barricades up along the entire edge of the theater's property which is at Broadway at the Beach if you're familiar with the area. There are police on quads riding all along the border of the property.

Just outside the property there is a massive sand sculpture of the candidates. It's 55 feet wide and 19 feet high and uses 1000 tons of sand. Over the last several days a ton of people have come to see it. Today, there is as much politikin going on there as there will be in the debate. Supporters of Clinton and Edwards have put up signs everywhere and are talking to people driving by.

Advocates for about 10 causes (Prevent Global Warming, Prevent AIDS, etc.) are holding up signs as well and playing music and talking to people trying to get pictures of the sand castle.

In other words, it's pretty crazy around here!! We're set up in the spin room to get a feed of the debate which is where I'll be most of the night.

Tomorrow we're probably headed to an Edwards' event to get a feel of how he's doing post debate.

I'll try to post a little more later....

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Columbia, SC 11:21pm

I'm sitting the ballroom of a hotel here in Columbia. It served as the GOP headquarters tonight as John McCain won the South Carolina Primary over Mike Huckabee by about 14,000 votes.

It's crazy being a TV station working late in a situation like this. Hotel workers around us are trying to put away all the tables and are putting up all the chairs. FOX news still has to do liveshots for the West Coast stations which means they are trying to keep a good background despite all the cleanup.

You would be amazed at the hours of work that goes into minutes of television.

Anyway, now it's up to the pundits to decide what this all means. McCain lost SC in 2000 and lost the nomination but he's won now. Some say that validates his campaign this year. On top of that since 1980 no candidate has lost SC and gone on to win the nomination. What does this mean for Huckabee? He's a Southern guy who just lost in the first Southern contest.

I was standing next to the SC chairman as Fox News and AP called the race. He got out his phone and was talking to McCain in minutes to congratulate the candidate and his staff.

Anywho, we are taking a short break tomorrow and are heading over to Myrtle Beach for Monday's debate with the Democrats.

I have to say looking back it was an unbelievable experience to see all the candidates. They were very accessible and great to work with. I'm curious with the "stars" on the Democratic ticket how easy that task will be next week. I believe Hillary and Obama have Secret Service which always makes it a challenge.

Anyway, I need to finish my story and get to sleep after another long day. It will be nice to recharge the batteries and get back to work on Monday.

Have a great Sunday!
Columbia, SC - let it snow

So, we stopped to get gas this morning after a much needed breakfast/lunch at IHOP. I realized as I put in my odometer reading at the pump that we had just passed a milestone on this trip.

We left Monday morning at 7:30am and by now 1:30 pm on Saturday we have traveled 1000miles! So, I feel like I should thank my vehicle for playing such a big role in this trip and remaining healthy!!

Anywho, it's a miserable weather day in South Carolina. It's been raining in Columbia all day and we hear it is snowing in Greenville. It's supposed to turn to snow here in Columbia in a couple hours as well. We stopped by a pollling place that was seeing a 16 percent turnout. Most said it was slow because of the weather and the fact it was on a Saturday.

So who will that help? Some believe it will help Huckabee because the far right Christians get to the polls no matter what obstruction lies ahead. Huckabee is a Baptist preacher by the way if you didn't know. Others say it could help McCain because his supporters believe in him so much they will go to the polls no matter how tricky the roads may get.

One common theme among voters is the fact that most believe all the candidates are good candidates but the had/are having a tough time to choosing one that stands out as the clear cut favorite and "best" candidate.

Huckabee went to a couple polls in Columbia today and McCain is down in Charleston.

Instead of hanging out with just one candidate (after all I can only be in one place at a time!) we decided to be more fair and hang out at the GOP headquarters where the GOP Chair and party officials and some of us media folk will be hanging out.

There's a clear sign everywhere that there's an election. Sure there are polls open and candidate signs are flooding street corners more than the rain, but it's the media that shows you why this is such a big event here.

As we drive down the street in our satellite truck, we almost always pass another tv station from just about anywhere. Last night we met a crew from Little Rock. There's crews here from Japan, Holland, the BBC. The state capitol is surrounded by satellite trucks and tents. Last night when we went to eat the restaurants were packed. I'd be willing to bet it was 40% media folk, 40% students (the other Carolina..ha ha), and just 20% local residents.

Anyway, we'll be monitoring it all stay tuned and good luck if you get snow there!!!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Columbia, SC

One last plug..check out Political Connections tonight at 6pm on News 14 Carolina for a look at the week in South Carolina!!!

Well..we decided to meet up with Dr. Hugh Cort. It was interesting to say the least. If you didn't read my earlier post, he's a Republican Presidential candidate. He's running about 8th in polls but when you get below 6th there's not much difference between 6-10 (yes there are 10 candidates in the national Republican race believe it or not).

He's a psychiatrist and terrorism expert from Alabama(self-proclaimed at this point until I confirm that). I'm not sure what that combination means but I'll leave the conclusions up to you. Anyway, when we were checking in at 2:30am he was checking in at the same Hampton Inn. He's campaigning across the state in his Chevy Malibu.

So, we tried to go into a Waffle House to get him campaigning with people and they said no cameras. We went to another local restaurant and they wouldn't let us in because the manager is a Ron Paul supporter (not kidding). So we then went into a restaurant called Lizard Thicket where they said yes finally. He went around the room and met people and handed out brochures.

Now Dr. Cort is what most call a fringe candidate. These candidates are in the race to try and get a message out. Dr. Cort's main message is to show people that Osama Bin Laden is planning a nuclear attack on 10 U.S. cities. He's also very anti-gay marriage and wants to do away with the IRS.

Anyway, he was very nice and very thankful for any media attention and kept saying that by helping him get on tv we were helping prevent a terrorist attack. Right or wrong about his belief, he's very passionate and some of the customers at the Lizards' liked his tax policy ideas.

What was interesting was you could tell he doesn't get too much media attention and he was going to take advantage of it. It was like a Chatty Charlie in a "who can stay silent" contest. The contest ends and you can imagine the spewing of conversation. I don't mean that in a bad way and I don't blame him because he's a candidate for President.

Check out the story if you can at later tonight.
Good morning from Columbia!

It's Primary eve here in South Carolina. It is cold and there's a chance of snow. I'm sure the pundits are already thinking of slick things to say about how the weather may affect turnout and who that would benefit!!!

Anywho, we got a late start this morning after a really long day yesterday. It started in Charlotte, then we stopped in Fort Mill, SC, then onto Clemson, SC, then onto Columbia where we had to essentially put together our show for tonight. We finally went to sleep around 3:00am.

We've been eating so much fast food as we chase around the state and we could really use a healthier meal but most likely it will be hot pockets in the hotel microwave. Nothing like a little hot pocket.

So, most of the candidates are traveling the state today and we need to stay in Columbia because we're helping our New York station send back stories from here tonight. I'm probably going to work on one of two stories. The first is election preps and what's on the mind of the voters. The other is more unique.

We get a lot of, okay I'll say it, weirdos coming up to us constantly when we hit the road like this. It seems if you are carrying a camera you have a sign on your forehead that says "Please approach me and talk to me about something bizarre". You's your sign. Don't get me wrong I love talking to viewers but these bizarre ones are unreal.

Anyway we were chekcing into our hotel at 2:30am this morning, a Hampton Inn, and this guy approaches me like it's 2:30pm and says "I'm Hugh Cort and I'm running for President". Yeah okayyyyy! Except he really is running for President. He's from Alabama and I checked into it and yes he's running for President! He said it cost $35,000 just to get on the ballot here in SC.

Anyway, it's kind of crazy and I'm thinking about setting up a story with him if he agrees to go campaign a little bit because I'd love to see people's reaction!

So, that's our day..I hope yours goes well and I'll write more this afternoon!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Clemson, SC

What a day! I'm sitting in the front seat of our satellite truck across the street from Death Valley on the Clemson campus. My feet are freezing but most of the snow has melted.

We're here because Republican Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee held an event with Chuck Norris and Ric Flair. 2500 students packed a small gym for the event holding Huckabee signs.

While our photographer, Mark Barger, was setting up for the event I went around back and was there when the Huckabee campaign bus arrived. As Huckabee walked up a dozen students were allowed to be out back and they begin immediately yelling for Chuck Norris and of course were yelling Whoooooooaaa at Ric Flair.

Inside a band was playing and Huckabee came out and played guitar with them on stage to 'Sweet Home Alabama'. The crowd went wild when Norris took the stage. It's clear he is a pop culture icon with these young students. It's hard to explain but it's not like these students really look up to him like they would Michael Jordan. It's sort of a joke but Norris embraces it and the students love him for it.

Ric Flair was a hit as well but he did not do his signature Whoooooooaaaa! Yes, we were all disappointed!

After the event, I ran around the back with my camera while Mark shot more video of the event. I was the only camera out back and Huckabee's staff allowed me to ask him a couple questions by myself. The former Arkansas Governor admitted most of the students were here to see Norris and Flair but he was okay with that and really did it to bring the students in. The two "stars" got students into the gym which was exactly what he wanted. At that point he had an audience of young students who could be vital independent undecided voters.

I'm just a reporter but I'd be willing to bet some of these students walked out planning to vote for him. He really did show an "older" guy can hang with the young crowd and can have some fun.

A student piped in during Huckabee's speech and the candidate stopped and went and talked with him in front of everyone on stage and made some jokes on the fly.

Norris got a huge round of applause when he introduced his long legged blonde wife. He then turned to the crowd and said 'Not bad huh?'. A great funny moment on the campaign trail.

I forgot to tell you all earlier too. I've been getting gas for $2.83 a gallon and my fast food combo meal was 30 cents less. See, I'm saving my employer money while working how about that!

Well, we have to finish our story and drive back to Columbia to put together tomorrow's episode of Political Connections (which airs Friday at 6, Sunday 11am).

If you haven't checked out my interview with Ron Paul it is right below this entry. To see all of our stories check out the show tomorrow or head to the politics section on

It's time for a drive-thru and a two hour drive so...until next time!

Fort Mill, South Carolina

We're in a huge hurry to get to Clemson but we just attended a Ron Paul event and got a chance to talk to him.

Click Ron Paul's picture to watch my one on one interview with him. Very interesting and very different event than the rest of the candidates.

One of his supporters here left Kentucky at 1:00am to get here to see him.

I'll write more later but we have to hit the road!!!
Good morning from Charlotte!

Yes, I'm back in North Carolina but not for long. We came back with our satelite truck just in case our co-workers in the Queen Ctiy needed it if the snow and storm created havoc. It turns out there was a light snow here which remains on the ground but the streets are wet and a light rain is falling. That means after a quick shower we will hit the road again!

I think we're going to head to Fort Mill, SC first and check out the Ron Paul campaign this morning. He's a long shot but he has an interesting campaign and I'm guessing we'll have good access. We saw his blimp flying around Greenville yesterday.

Later we're heading to Clemson University to check out Mike Huckabee, who is campaigning with Chuck Norris and Ric Flair this afternoon. Okay, I know some of you can't wait until that event is over so I stop talking about it but it just strikes me funny!

Tonight we head back to Columbia.

So, quick plug. We are taping the entire Political Connections here in South Carolina so make sure to check it out Friday at 6pm and Sunday at 11am on News 14 Carolina.

By the way I need to write about the TV and radio ads later. You can't escape the insanity!!!

I'll update you later on our events. Drive safe and we'll chat soon!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Greenville, SC

Good afternoon from the Palmetto state. This morning we drove from Lexington to Greenville. We attended an event for Senator John McCain. He had several hundred people waving signs. There was clearly a large number of veterans in the audience including a WWII vet we talked with and someone who was a POW with McCain as well that is from Greenville.

There is often a lot of talk about McCain not being a smooth speaker and he loves to speak from prepared notes or speeches. That's why I was suprised when he spoke mainly off the cuff. Perhaps he's doing so many events that he's got the routine down now.

It's funny the difference in the campaigns. Edwards' crew always lets us shoot video of him getting off the bus and he says hello. The Huckabee crew didn't want us to get close to him getting off the bus. McCain got off the bus, walked up to us and greeted us personally.

I'll tell you what you can also notice huge differences in the candidates when you see their appearances in person. Edwards focuses on a variety of topics but definitely plays off the audience in a very serious matter and he likes to get through a number of topics including health care, poverty, and the War in Iraq in a small but formal setting. His supporters at the event appeared to be middle class folks who were for the most part middle aged or older. Huckabee's event was like a good old fashioned barbecue and he talks to his supporters like their buddies and focused on small government in his speeches. A lot of his supporters were wearing blue jeans and ball caps. McCain's appearance today was very traditional. He had a big flag behind him with perfect lighting in a big ballroom. A large number of his supporters were older and most of those were veterans.

McCain focused his speech on veterans, supporting troops, and the War on Terror. He said the decisions in Iraq should be made by the General there and not by a politician in Washington.

McCain also gave props to the SC Attorney General for suing North Carolina to "get their water back". Good thing the NC Primary isn't until May 6th huh?

Anywho, after we wrap up here we have to take a detour to Charlotte tonight. I'm looking to catch up with Ron Paul tomorrow morning. I'm thinking since he's a long long shot to win maybe he'll do a one on one interview with a non-South Carolina station. His campaign and his supporters are quite interesting.

In the afternoon we plan to head down to Clemson to see Huckabee with Chuch Norris and Ric Flair.

What a hoot huh?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Lexington, South Carolina

It's 8:35 and I'm sitting on a cold concrete floor at a barbeque joint waiting for Governor Huckabee to arrive. It's amazing to note the differences between the Huckabee staffers and Edwards staffers. The Edwards crew is much more busieness like and is very serious about the event they are attending.

This event was planned by Huckabees son. I talked with him a bit and told him I lived in Arkansas for three years which got me a few minutes more as he immediately started talking about barbeque and the Arkansas Razorbacks. Everyone is so relaxed and will talk to you about anything and stop and give you plenty of time. Don't get me wrong Edwards staffers are great but these Huckabee folks were down home folks. I think the term is folksy?

Anywho, this restaurant screams Huckabee and Arkansas and Chuck Norris. It has an extreme outdoorsmen type of feel with a fire in a stone fireplace. The pictures on the walls are portraits of various hunting dogs!

We are packed like sardines in here but the crowd doesnt seem to care.

I also interviewed someone else who actually went to Governor Huckabee's church when he was a preacher. Pretty cool the people you meet on the trail.

I'm very curious to see how his speech is tonight and he's only minutes away so I better go for now! By the way we're headed to Spartanburg tomorrow to see Sen. McCain and then Huckabee again on Thursday where he'll be on stage with not only Chuck Norris but Ric Flair.


Gov. Huckabee has arrived and I'll tell you what, I don't mean to harp on Edwards vs. Huckabee but it's a good reference point because I was at an Edwards event yesterday. There is a clear difference in the enthusiasm of both the candidate and his rowdy supporters when it comes to Huckabee. Huckabee in 2008 actually reminds me of the energy and grassroots of Edwards in 2004. Something to think about...

Today we left Mount Pleasant and headed northwest to Columbia. We're heading to Lexington tonight to watch Mike Huckabee watch results from Michigan.

In the meantime, we had a chance to sit down with SC GOP Chairman Katan Dawson. It was a really interesting interview about the history of the state's role and big changes in store for this year's primary.

Click on the picture to check it out!

Chuck Norris tonight?

Good morning from Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. One day is now in the books on the campaign trail for us. After a quick breakfast, we're heading up to Columbia to do an interview with Carolina's GOP chairman. I'm hoping to post it on the blog this afternoon and we're using it for this week's Political Connections (which we're taping entirely here in South Carolina this week and next so check it out Friday at 6pm and Sunday at 11am) Okay cheap plug over!

Anywho, after that interview we're going to check out Mike Huckabee on the campaign trail and then we're hanging out with the candidate and his supporters tonight to watch Michigan results in Lexington, SC. I lived in Arkansas for a few years when he was in a different public office other than Governor so we'll see if I can use that to sneak in a one on one interview (yeah right).

But the big question is will Chuck Norris appear in SC tonight! He's touring Huckabee and we'll have to see if we can talk to him. I'm not sure whether it is newsworthy, curiosity, or just plain weird. We'll just have to see I guess!

More this afternoon we must hit the road!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Do you want to talk with Chuck Norris???

So, after mere minutes of finishing our story on John Edwards in Pawleys Island, South Carolina, it was already time to figure out what to do on Tuesday. Most of the candidates are in either Michigan or Nevada.

No one from our station has covered Republican candidate Mike Huckabee so we're headed to Lexington, SC tomorrow to hang out with his supporters and Huckabee himself as they watch results from the Michigan Primary.

With that said, it's roughly 3 1/2 hours from Pawleys Island to Lexington which is just outside of Columbia. Therefore, we decided to head to Charleston and get a nice dinner and crash there for the night.

As soon as I sat down in the hotel to relax I turned on the tv and guess what? A rerun of Law and Order with Fred Thompson. I'm not kidding! What's the odds? I guess that's pretty good free advertising for him. I mean it's not like reruns of John Edwards speeches or anything of his get played on TNT.

Another quick story.. We usually get in contact with the campaigns ahead of time just to let them know we are coming and get details on the event and then request and get denied for a one on one interview with the candidate! More on that in a minute. First, I emailed the Huckabee campaign and asked them about the details for his event tomorrow night. His campaign emailed me back within an hour and asked me if I wanted to do a phone interview with Chuck Norris!! I'm sure they were doing a series of calls to get attention before the Michigan and South Carolina races but wow did that strike me funny. I mean when I took this job, I can honestly say I never expected to get that question in my life! For background if you don't know, Chuck Norris is a huge Huckabee fan and is doing all sorts of campaigning for the Arkansan.

Now, back to access...It's interesting covering these candidates. They are always extremely excited to see any media show up so they love to see us, BUT it doesn't go much farther than that. The bottom line is unless you are a South Carolina media outlet or from a national organization they don't give you the red carpet treatment. For example, today with John Edwards people from tiny TV stations got one on one's with the Senator and we weren't allowed to get one ourself. Now, I can't really blame his staff. The reason is simple, he needs votes here and voters are watching South Carolina stations not North Carolina stations. But, I still request the interviews just in case.

Truth be told, the better interviews are from the real people who are attending the events. As I type this there's a Fred Thompson campaign ad playing during a commercial of Law and Order.


Time for bed...more tomorrow.
Good afternoon from SC!

This is the first post from South Carolina. For the next two weeks, I'll be criss crossing the state covering both the Republican and Democratic Primaries.

Today we're in Pawleys Island, South Carolina. It's a beach community about 20 miles south of Myrtle Beach. Most of the candidates are either in Michigan or Nevada the first part of this week.

Luckily for us, John Edwards is still here and this was where he was making an appearance before heading to Nevada himself. He spoke at a Coastal Carolina University satelite campus. About 150 people showed up and most of them were well over the age of 50 years old.

He spoke for about 15 minutes then took questions for another 45 minutes. His emphasis was on the environment and global warming which is no surprise since this is a beach community. I can tell you it is a very affluent beach community. To use Edwards' terminology there are no have nots that live here to say the least.

Before the appearance, I overheard his staff furiously calling salons in the area to find someone who could do makeup for Edwards. He's making a national TV appearance later this afternoon. Sure enough, an hour later two women walked in with make up bags.

We had a quick media availability after the event. Edwards said he talked with Cate last night. He says she was hit by a drunk driver in NC but she's fine. That's about all he could say about the accident. I asked him what he thought the difference was in SC now from 2004 and he said not much except the candidates. He says when he sees people in person they respond and that's why he spend the extra day here in South Carolina instead of heading straight to Nevada where there is a caucus on Saturday.

I spent 10 days here in 2004 but there is already a different feel to me than that year. Granted, it's day one for us but I can already get the feeling that Edwards is in third and not first in South Carolina. This appearance was significantly smaller than all the ones I attended in 2004 and there was a lot less fan fare. Some of that could be there are three candidates and in 2004 it was just him and Kerry.

Who knows, but I need to finish my story from here so I must sign off from here. Later, I'll post about some of the behind the scenes stories you won't get in our TV stories. Until then...

Friday, January 11, 2008

Richard Moore unveiled his first TV ad in the Democratic race for Governor. It's a 2:00 ad that will air Sunday only across the state. The campaign will take that ad and make 30 second versions to air after that. The campaign did not release copies but we were able to tape it on a TV with our cameras. So here it is...

Bev Perdue is reportedly airing her ads starting Monday.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

More on McCrory from Jonathon Lowe in our Greensboro newsroom.

News 14 Carolina has learned through sources that the seven-term Republican will announce his run for governor at 1 p.m. Tuesday in his hometown of Jamestown, near Greensboro.

Also from our Charlotte newsroom. This is what Gov. Easley had to say about McCrory after an event in Charlotte he attended.

"Coming from a large city gives you a financial base that's important. I know when I ran I came out of little Southport and raising money was a whole new thing then running for District Attorney. So that gives you a little bit of an advantage."

Gov. Easley would not say anything more about his chances against Democrats.
2 things...

From Jonathon Lowe in our Greensboro newsroom..

News 14 Carolina has learned that seven-term Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory will announce his run for governor at 1 p.m. Tuesday in his hometown of Jamestown.


Lt. Governor Beverly Perdue’s campaign has turned down an invitation from News 14 Carolina and Peace College in Raleigh to debate State Treasurer Richard Moore in a live telecast. Last October, we invited both Democratic gubernatorial candidates to debate on the Peace College campus in March or April. Treasurer Moore’s campaign accepted the debate invitation immediately.

Lt. Governor Perdue’s campaign informed News 14 Carolina today they were not making scheduling commitments that far in advance. The News 14 Carolina/Peace College debate would have been available to all Time Warner Cable subscribers in North Carolina and subscribers of other members of the North Carolina Cable Telecommunications Association.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Curious eyes...

I'm in a huge hurry to get out of here to get to the store and get home to watch the Heels so I have to keep this short until tomorrow.

I spent my afternoon at the Rep. Thomas Wright hearing (see News 14 Carolina) for my full story.

Anywho, it was interesting to see who and who was not at the hearing. First, neither Wright or anyone representing him was there. Also, at least five Representatives popped in from time to time to take in some of the action. None stayed for a long time but they were definitely peeking in to see what was happening. More tomorrow...

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Some thoughts on New Hampshire from Elon..

So, I'm working tonight and doing updates on the New Hampshire primary. Every hour I'm interviewing Elon University's Chief Pollster Dr. Hunter Bacot.

He says if Edwards doesn't get 20% it's pretty much night night for his campaign unless he can somehow remarkably win in South Carolina (where he did win in 2004 but is polling poorly now).

He also said Huckabee finishing third in New Hampshire is a huge victory considering he was polling in sixth not long ago.

He believes a huge margin between McCain and Romney could spell the end of the Romney campaign and he doesn't by Giuliani's strategy to essentially ignore the first three races and go for the gold on Super Duper Tuesday.

Monday, January 07, 2008

The DOT ditty..

Dueling press releases today from the Moore and Perdue campaign for Governor. Moore released his plan to help DOT and Perdue's camp responded this afternoon. Here's both releases for you to chew on.

Moore's release

"North Carolina faces massive transportation needs, with estimates reaching a $122 billion price tag over the next 25 years. The combination of population growth, necessary repairs and maintenance and rapid inflation in construction costs has created an unprecedented need. Simultaneously, a recent report from McKinsey Consulting confirmed what we already know: the Department of Transportation is overly political and bureaucratic, which leads to stagnation and inefficiency.

We have little hope of meeting our transportation needs until the Department of Transportation is functioning at the highest level of efficiency possible. But all-too-often, it seems that decisions about where to build new roads are based on politics, not need. To achieve the improvement in management and efficiency necessary to meet North Carolina’s long-term transportation needs, we must cut the bureaucracy and politics that govern the Department’s decision-making process.

Here is how we can reach that goal:

ü Better decision making: The Department of Transportation should improve its decision making process to make it more transparent and to ensure that politics play less of a role. An important change will be to establish metrics that measure the need for and effectiveness of new projects. The results of this analysis should be publicly available and politicians must have a greatly reduced role in deciding the priority of projects.

ü No more legislative slush funds: We should end the practice of giving the legislative leadership their own discretionary transportation funds. These legislative slush funds have been used to spend millions of taxpayer dollars on pet projects, political favors and to benefit insiders with little or no accountability to taxpayers. By removing these slush funds, we can better ensure that precious transportation dollars go to needed projects.

ü No more political fundraising: The 19 members of the N.C. Board of Transportation, who oversee DOT operations and decision making, are among the most active campaign fundraisers in North Carolina politics. Since 2000, board members have contributed more than $500,000 to state political campaigns. We should end this practice by enacting a campaign finance law, similar to the prohibition on fundraising activities by lobbyists, which would apply to Board of Transportation members. The DOT Board’s priority should be making the best transportation decisions for North Carolina, not campaign fundraising.

With these three steps, North Carolina can significantly reduce the politics and bureaucracy that plagues decision making within the Department of Transportation. Once these steps are taken, we will be closer to having the management in place that is required to meet North Carolina’s significant transportation needs. "

Perdue's response
"Bev Perdue believes we should look at comprehensive campaign finance reform. That should include restrictions on contributions from those affiliated with DOT as well as restrictions on contributions from the state's investment advisors," said Bev Perdue spokesman David Kochman.

"Given his $1.4 million in contributions from Wall Street and now the Randy Parton Theatre, Richard Moore trying to lead the parade on campaign finance reform is like Paris Hilton trying to lead the parade on good taste," added Kochman.

Also worth noting is that Richard Moore has accepted at least $24,000 from current DOT board members and their families (News & Observer, 8/19/07)"

Friday, January 04, 2008

Closing time..

Happy Friday! It's been a short week but wow am I ready for the weekend!

Anywho, just a quick note to let you know tonights Political Connections on News 14 Carolina (5:00 with 11am replay Sunday) is an on the road edition from the 2008 Economic Forecast Forum in RTP. Some interesting stuff, in particular, about the the housing industry.

I've spent most of my day talking to pundits about the Iowa Caucus. General consensus is that Edwards finishing second to Obama was worse than losing to Clinton because Obama's message of change is similar and Edwards was pinning himself as the anti-Clinton candidate. Regardless, he needs a win in NH or SC bad!!!

I'm getting prepped the next week to head down to SC for a couple weeks of excitement filled with stories, blog entries, and even two shows from SC.

Should be a blast.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Entrance polls..

So, if exit polls weren't bad enough in some people's eyes on election day, we are now seeing entrance polls for the Iowa caucus because exit polls are worthless.

I'm sure the voting advocate people will love this one. CNN is reporting in its entrance poll that caucus voters have John Edwards lagging behind.

I know these caucuses can be confusing and daunting to understand but they are fascinating. I'm watching a man in overhauls and a long silver beard with some hat making a push for Edwards.

Here's a very simple way of looking at how they work.

Instead of going to polls and casting ballots, Iowa voters gather inside churches, school, and libraries. There are nearly 1800 caucuses across the state of Iowa. For Democrats the process works like this, participants literally stand in different corners of the room to show their support for a candidate.
They then have 30 minutes to try and convince their neighbors to switch and support their candidate. After 30 minutes, each candidate must have 15-percent to move on to the next round. The groups then have 30 more minutes to once again convince people to switch candidates. Once that 30 minutes is up a final head count is conducted and those numbers are recorded. This is huge for John Edwards, he needs at least a top three finish to move on and have a chance in his birth state of South Carolina. He finished second in Iowa in 2004 behind John Kerry.