My Dad is a cameraman and has been covering the Obama campaign the last few weeks. Here's his impression of food on the campaign trail. :)
Campaign coverage can definitely be hazardous to your health. Last evening, a member of the member of the traveling press protective pool (read that: "Death-watch") that follows the candidate wherever he goes, tripped over a fire hose and broke her shoulder as we we sprinting from the motorcade to cover the victory speech at Grant Park.
I saw her this morning in the hotel lobby, grimly clutching her laptop case and holding a starbucks latte in her slung hand.
Not the least of the hazards come from the food. Twenty hour days, a different hotel every day and constant stress makes for a hungry press corp and the campaign staff obliges by feeding us at every chance they get. Meet in the hotel lobby at 6am: coffee and doughnuts, get on the bus to go the the airport: bacon and egg sandwiches, get on the plane and fly to the next town: full breakfast, back on the bus: snacks, event site: local catering including buffet tables and white tablecloths, back on the bus: more snacks...and on and on til you burst. You get fed an average of six times a day and that number is reflected in bulging waistlines and an average of one heart attack per campaign. My personal method is to eat every other time and never on planes, and I usually manage to lose a few pounds due to the constant running around associated with being a cameraman.
In the past, both republican and democratic campaigns used very similar catering. All the food looked about the same; if you were in the South, it had to be barbeque and mac and cheese and pecan pie, the Midwest meant beef and potatoes, the Southwest was Tex-Mex of course and no trip to Wisconsin or Michigan was complete without beer and sausages. The campaign staff researches the local restaurants and tries to come up wit the best hot dog in Cincinnati, the best burger in Denver, etc etc. The very few vegetarians who travel in the press corp usually get by okay on the side dishes and salads, but its definitely a meat-oriented world.
(I am an omnivore, but the have a vegetarian daughter with proselytizing tendencies.)
So imagine my surprise the other day as I was covering the last week of the Obama Campaign and we come rolling into the press tent to find a complete Thai buffet with curry tofu and pad Thai from a local restaurant in some town I have lost track of.
Next day in Desmoines, Iowa they had contracted with the Ritual Cafe to feed us some awesome red roasted hummus and veggie sandwiches on whole wheat and great fair trade coffee. The choice was salad, veggie chili or sandwiches with cool black cat cookies for Halloween and I didn't hear even one complaint about any lack of meat. And trust me, this is one group that doesn't scrimp on the complaining.
I actually got into a press van in Indiana and found it stocked with raw food from Whole foods, including raw pumpkin bars and something called a spirulina energy bar that actually perked me up a little, no small feat after since we averaged about two hours of sleep a night on the last days of the sprint to the finish.
Now I am not taking sides here, as a journalist that would be wrong, but as the pundits look back on what worked what didn't work in turns of campaign strategies, is it possible a healthier, happier press corp contributed to Obamas' victory? Who knows, its a small thing, but emblematic I think of the campaign's tendency to look forward instead of back.