Thursday, February 05, 2009
I’m not a big fan of politicians, but I am fascinated by the culture of politics. This morning I covered two press conferences for Republicans kicking off their campaigns for the New Jersey gubernatorial race. Candidate X arrived in a fully-loaded campaign bus and spoke in a conference room overflowing with several hundred supporters alongside television and print media.
After the applause ended and X boarded his bus to head for the next stop in a long day of traversing the state to introduce himself to the voters, I crossed the parking lot expecting more of the same for candidate Y. As Y’s 10:45 press conference start time came and went, reporter Melissa Hayes and I walked through the parking lot to see if we were in the wrong spot. We found candidate Y in the front seat of an SUV, where the temperature was about 50 degrees warmer than outside. After introducing ourselves, Y began the press conference…from the front seat. Only after an aide commented “Umm…Y, they have a photographer, you should probably get out of the car,” did the location shift from the interior of a Ford Explorer to the exterior of a Ford Explorer.
Despite the bitter cold, Y spoke passionately about the issues for an audience of myself, Melissa and one supporter who had arrived, much to the astonishment of Y and his aide. Following the press conference, they climbed back into the SUV, where the back seat was folded down to cram in campaign posters, books and press releases, and settled in for a long drive to their next campaign stop, presumably for a similar audience.
I don’t presume to know the motives of somebody running for elected office. Maybe it’s narcissism. Maybe it’s a power trip. Maybe it’s a genuine desire to serve. I do know that I would never want to endure the grueling marathon a campaign must be, so it’s fascinating to observe someone just setting out on that journey, especially someone who seems aware from the start that they don’t have a chance.