Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Democratic presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan addresses a crowd in Wellsville, Ohio during the 1896 campaign. Bryan was the first candidate to successfully embrace "whistle-stop" campaigning, harnessing the power of a young rail network to reach masses of voters. (Photo via archive.org link: http://bit.ly/UfVMRY)
(Tom Lisi -- Transportation Nation) Every presidential candidate does it: hop from town to town trying to shake as many hands, kiss as many babies, and spread that in-person charm to as many swing state voters as possible.
This touring style of campaigning didn’t take place until the U.S. had developed a comprehensive railroad system in the latter 19th century. Before then, candidates courted the mostly white male, property-owning electorate through newspapers. In the earliest presidential elections, it was considered unseemly for politicians to tout themselves in public. No longer.
In the age of super PACs and mega donors, candidates routinely charter flights across the country to get to and from big fundraisers -- but the bus is the standard bearer. Romney campaign buses have worn slogans such as "Conservative, Businessman, Leader" and "Every Town Counts." The Romney campaign bus, above, with its candidate in Tarlton, OH, at times does not even have the former governor on it, and will instead transport local politicians to rallies, or go on missions to taunt Obama supporters.
President Obama, pictured here leaving Ireland in 2011, has to use Air Force One to travel by air, whether it’s official state business or part of his campaign trail. The president is supposed to reimburse taxpayers when the plane is being used for travel to fundraising events or stump speeches. One watchdog organization estimates that it costs over $180,000 an hour to operate Air Force One.
The grassroots-style campaign for president became tradition by the time of Reconstruction, but, arguably, the first candidate to turn it into a national phenomenon was the populist Democratic nominee of 1896, William Jennings Bryan. Bryan conducted a six-week "whistle-stop" tour leading up to the election, usually giving 20 to 30 speeches a day.
Before Air Force One, there was U.S. Car No. 1. The Ferdinand Magellan was specially armored to carry President Franklin Delano Roosevelt during World War II. Harry Truman used the Magellan for his famous whistle-stop campaign during the 1948 election. One of the most famous moments of campaign history: Truman stood on the Magellan's observation platform, newspaper triumphantly hoisted high, holding the famously incorrect headline, “Dewey defeats Truman.”
President Eisenhower was considered all but a lock for re-election in 1956, but at the Republican convention that year, a delegate wrote in “Joe Smith" for Vice President to protest the unanimity of the GOP nominations. Here, Democratic opponent Adlai Stevenson meets a Chicago supporter named Joe Smith before embarking on a tour of speeches with his campaign plane, the Joe Smith Express.
With more campaign cash to go around, focus on the presidential primaries has grown over time. Coach buses allow candidates to travel to many destinations in one state, and have room for the media to come along for the ride. John McCain’s “Straight Talk Express” had a welcoming reputation among the press corps during his 2000 primary run.
The Eisenhower administration retired the The Ferdinand Magellan due to lack of use in 1958. But it made a comeback in 1984 when President Reagan used it for one-day trip in Ohio. Campaigns have since brought back the nostalgic whistle-stop style, including President Obama in 2008 when the Illinois Senator campaigned on a restored Pullman car. McCain, who opposed Amtrak funding, carried on whistle-stopless.
FDR loved traveling by rail. He even had his own entryway to Grand Central Terminal in NYC, where a car specially designed for him* still sits, entombed and dusty, below the active station as we reported in our story on the lost subways of NYC. See pic here.
*An earlier version of this sentence incorrectly referred to this car as the Ferdinand Magellan.
Friday, July 20, 2012
This week, there were renewed calls from both sides of the aisle for Mitt Romney to release personal tax information. Joseph Thorndike, Director of the Tax History Project at Tax Analysts and a contributing editor for Tax Notes magazine tells Brooke that the history of this kind of disclosure from political candidates began with a little dog named Checkers.
Tuesday, July 10, 2012
It's hard to outspend people whose excessive fortunes rely on them outspending you.
Thursday, July 05, 2012
Much of the lethargy that bogs down our political leaders and limits their imaginations comes from their political ties -- to institutions that are broken, conventional wisdom that has failed, and lobbying forces not looking out for the common good.
Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Attached please find artists' renderings of our top four attack strategies for your review.
Friday, May 18, 2012
Even though the U.S. Asian population grew faster than any other racial group in the past decade, neither political party has put much effort into tapping them.
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Like with so many other things, the Democrats like to pretend like they have some kind of higher ground because they see the Republicans as worse, when really all they are is bought and paid for by different special interests who's pockets aren't quite as deep.
Thursday, May 10, 2012
While we political junkies forget this, there are still many Americans who respect elected leaders and who will be moved by this announcement to evolve as well. There are people around the country for whom the "about time" quality of this shift will be a source of relief, affirmation and hope.
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
What's more surprising than Rick Santorum dropping out to most is that he lasted this long. He has already factored into three of my predictions on this site, so I'll round his candidacy out with two more before we bid farewell.
Thursday, February 16, 2012
The more the Santorums of the world fight for the world of yesterday, the more they are being left out of the plans for tomorrow.
Tuesday, January 03, 2012
The 2012 presidential election cycle officially kicks off tonight with the Republican caucus in Iowa. O. Kay Henderson, News Director for Radio Iowa, describes the last few days of campaigning, what’s been different about the race for this year’s caucuses, and what we can expect tonight.
Thursday, August 18, 2011
Independent voters in New Hampshire share a proud, stubborn resistance to let a party define their politics, but not much else.
These unaffiliated voters are a huge electoral force in the state, outnumbering both Republicans and Democrats, and because New Hampshire’s primary system allows them to vote in either Democratic or Republican primary, they could technically sway the entire election.
These voters don’t vote in anything resembling a bloc, and with just a contest on the Republican side, they may not turnout in large numbers in 2012.
Friday, August 12, 2011
Nearly two months after their last debate, the Republican presidential candidates gathered on stage at Iowa State University in Ames last night, for another national televised debate. Rep. Michele Bachmann and former Governor Tim Pawlenty, both from Minnesota, sparred about their records. Who dominated? And who stumbled?
Thursday, August 11, 2011
President Obama is losing support among independents, and there’s a mad dash among political organizers to grab them as they peel off. But their approach differs on how they diagnose who independent voters are and what they care about.
And their success will depend on their ability to navigate the political graveyard that’s littered with efforts to change the system during hotly contested, highly partisan political campaigns.
Thursday, August 11, 2011
Independent voters were a key part of the coalition that elected Barack Obama in 2008. But President Obama has lost the support of many of those independents, throughout his term. As potential candidates begin to prepare for the 2012 presidential election, the hunt is on to try to capture the independent vote.
Thursday, August 04, 2011
All through August, Anna Sale is on a search for the independent voter. These are the prize voters who could make up the margin in the 2012 contest, but their definition is elusive and their politics mixed. First stop, Colorado.
Friday, May 13, 2011
Ron Paul declared his candidacy for president for the third time on Friday, "because the time has come around to the point where the people are agreeing with much of what I've been saying for thirty years, so I think the time is right."
He told George Stephanopolus on ABC's Good Morning America that he's running as a Republican, not as an independent, because it "is just about impossible" to get traction and media attention outside the party system unless "you're a billionaire like Ross Perot."
"If I was an independent, George, you would not have me on this program this morning," Paul said. "There's nothing wrong with nudging the Republicans to a true constitutional position, stick to their guns on fiscal conservatism."
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Home to both Michelle Bachmann and Al Franken, Minnesota is caught in a battle for its political soul. During his eight years in the governor's office, Tim Pawlenty was on the front lines. Now, as he runs on that record in his quest for the presidency, he's presenting himself as the Great Red Hope from a Blue State.
Friday, May 06, 2011
While only five candidates took the stage last night in Greenville, S.C. for the first Republican debate, we learned plenty of useful things about the field and what's likely to come next.
Thursday, May 05, 2011
Four years ago this week, Virginia Tech was still recovering from the shock of a massacre, James Franco was best known for new star turn in Superman 3 (not his multiple grad degrees), and Osama bin Laden was missing.
There was also a wide open field for the Republican nominee for president.
On May 3, 2007, ten candidates met in their first debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California.