May 2nd, 2008
09:15 AM ET
7 years ago

Campaign Diary: A brief, disorienting, return to Iowa

McCain found his springtime Iowa swing a far more pleasant trip.
McCain found his springtime Iowa swing a far more pleasant trip.

DES MOINES, Iowa (CNN) – Ah, Iowa. Where the grass is a green, the temperature is a balmy 72 degrees, and a triumphant Sen. John McCain stands before a Republican audience as his party’s standard-bearer.

Yes, the landscape of the Hawkeye State has changed considerably since the political world evacuated en masse late in the evening on January 3, headed to New Hampshire and beyond on chartered jets, steeling themselves for just a few more weeks of campaigning, thinking each party’s nominees would soon be determined.

On Thursday, four weary months later, the national reporters and TV crews assigned to McCain’s campaign returned to Des Moines for the first time since January to cover a town hall put on by the presumptive Republican nominee.

The scene offered a few muted flashbacks to those frigid weeks before the caucuses: the fleet of women wearing fire truck red “Divided We Fail” t-shirts, the elderly gentlemen sitting and clutching small American flags, even the slow-paced, meet-the-candidate format of the town hall itself.

The politician on stage chatted about ethanol subsidies and lauded the tenacity of Iowa farmers. CNN even spotted Tim Albrecht, Mitt Romney’s ubiquitous former Iowa communications director, milling around, lending a friendly helping hand to the event planners. This all seemed familiar.

But in other ways during this journalist homecoming, it was bizarro Iowa.

Who turned off the windy snow? Where was David Yepsen? And John Edwards? What about the satellite trucks lining the Des Moines streets?

Although the warm weather hinted at the Iowa of last summer, when sweaty press hordes descended on the Ames Straw Poll and the Iowa State Fair to sample politics, meat-on-sticks and dairy items, there were no butter sculptures in sight on this day. Iowa had become a doppelganger of its former self.

The most substantial change was in McCain himself, the candidate who essentially spurned Iowa in 2000 and 2008 for the cramped diners and chummy bus rides of New Hampshire.

But on Thursday in Iowa, as McCain meandered across the dais at the Polk County Convention Center, he was the man. McCain, once left for dead here, was now the pre-eminent Republican in America. Not Romney. Not Mike Huckabee. Not any of the Republicans who camped out here for months on end, hoping to an Iowa victory would slingshot them to the nomination.

McCain had not fully won over conservative Iowans on his way to the Republican nomination. But here he was again, beaming and ready for the general election, re-introducing himself to the good Midwestern folks who will vote, not caucus, in November. If he didn’t need Iowans in January, he will certainly need them in the fall.

“The political reality is Iowa will again be a battleground state,” he said at the conclusion of his remarks, after about an hour and a half of health care chatter. “I intend to spend a lot of time here. It’s a great privilege to be back in the heartland of America.”

Perhaps recalling up some Iowa memories of his own, McCain polished off his remarks with a cheeky nod to the state’s culinary rituals.

“I also look very much forward to going back to the Iowa State Fair and having a pork chop on a stick, followed by a deep fried Twinkie!” McCain cheered.

With that, the reporters were hustled away to their bus and to the airport, assured with this visit that they would probably return sooner than they think. The Hy-Vees will be waiting.

– CNN Political Producer Peter Hamby


Filed under: Iowa • John McCain
soundoff (68 Responses)
  1. Is Obama Gay?

    WOW

    GOOGLE OBAMA AND LARRY SINCLAIR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    GOOGLE OBAMA AND LARRY SINCLAIR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    GOOGLE OBAMA AND LARRY SINCLAIR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    GOOGLE OBAMA AND LARRY SINCLAIR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    GOOGLE OBAMA AND LARRY SINCLAIR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    May 2, 2008 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  2. Jamaal Kansas

    Hillary and Mccain are Liars with there gas tax gimmick Hillary knows better Hillary tell us about the court case you have pending Paul Vs Clinton for Campaign and Finacial fraud why is it this is left out of the New or how Your Husband have taken over a Million dollars from the Columbians to push the trade deal Hillary Tells us about the Case that you and you Husband happen to leave out in you I more vetted argument prove it Paul Vs Clinton?

    May 2, 2008 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  3. Jamaal Kansas

    Hillary and Mccain are Liars with there gas tax gimmick Hillary knows better Hillary tell us about the court case you have pending Paul Vs Clinton for Campaign and Finacial fraud why is it this is left out of the New or how Your Husband have taken over a Million dollars from the Columbians to push the trade deal Hillary Tells us about the Case that you and you Husband happen to leave out in you I more vetted argument prove it Paul Vs Clinton

    May 2, 2008 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  4. Mike - Texas

    I can hardly wait for Rev. Wright's book to come out in September, just in time for the November elections.

    That ought to be FUN!!!

    May 2, 2008 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  5. douadavid, PA

    Obama is a racism against all races and gender. Vote for Hillay is a dream come true for all American.

    May 2, 2008 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  6. Blake

    @Sharon from Minnesota

    Wikipedia is a user submitted web based encyclopedia. Anyone can add or change the information.

    I do not know if this stuff about Paul v Clinton is true, but I do know you can not cite Wikipedia as a factual source.

    May 2, 2008 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  7. Blake

    Also who thinks that criminals can not be victims from other victims?

    Please say "I"

    May 2, 2008 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  8. Ohio Voter For Hillary!

    There are tons of more Dirt on NoObama!!!!

    May 2, 2008 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  9. Blake

    woops

    Who thinks ciminals can not be victims from other criminals?

    May 2, 2008 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  10. Mary

    Why haven't we heard about this case in the media?Los Angeles Judge Saves Hillary's Presidential Bid

    In the landmark civil fraud case against Bill Clinton in Los Angeles, where the former President is charged with defrauding a Hollywood dot com millionaire to help Hillary Clinton obtain more than $1.2 million from him for her 2000 Senate campaign, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Aurelio Munoz ruled on Friday, April 25 that Hillary Clinton would not be required to testify in a sworn deposition as a material witness in the case until AFTER the November election!

    May 2, 2008 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  11. Mike

    To Sharon Minnesota (9:58 am),

    ...well said...

    "Thank You!"

    Desperate supporters = Desperate measures; most are probably on O'Blah Blahs payroll.

    Go Hillary!!!

    If Gore endorses Hillary, NObama is toast!!!!!!

    May 2, 2008 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  12. Debby

    Good for McCain while the Obama supporters are looking like total nuts on these blogs at least there is one candidate who is reaching out to Americans looking Presidential. Obama will never have a chance this Nov. and he can thank his looney supporters, Dean and Pelosi for that.

    May 2, 2008 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  13. MK

    McCain & the Republican party are irrelevant for America in '08.

    A vote for Clinton IS a Republican vote in the general election. Vote in the primaries and make it count – Vote Obama.

    May 2, 2008 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  14. DAN

    Bill Ayers the terrorist weatherman is the next Obama problem that is starting to brew. Obama called it a flimsy friendship, but this is going right to his judgement, In the end all these alliances have influence and defines who Obama really is. It's time to start uniting behind Hillary and have prosperity for everybody. Obama should start hanging around with the Clintons instead of people like Wright , Ayers or Rezko. He would win in 2016

    May 2, 2008 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  15. Sharon

    Defamation and slander:
    1. A false and defamatory statement concerning another;
    2. The unprivileged publication of the statement to a third party (that is, somebody other than the person defamed by the statement);
    3. If the defamatory matter is of public concern, fault amounting at least to negligence on the part of the publisher; and
    4. Damage to the plaintiff.

    Why are people allowed to smear lies over these blogs?????

    May 2, 2008 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  16. Christiana from NY

    It seems to me like CNN is enjoying and encouraging this divisiveness that exists in the Democratic party. It's like they've handed Clinton the victory and buried Obama in the process. If you don't switch back to objectivity in your news reporting soon I am going to turn off my channel from this network. I know news networks work for ratings and not objectivity. But I thought CNN was different. May be you wouldn't like Obama to win. Bill Clinton won the presidency during his days despite all the baggage he came into the political arena with. That is worse to me than what Obama did or didn't do

    May 2, 2008 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  17. Creative Woody

    "Here's an excerpt taken from Wickipedia."

    Instead of rehashing such a reliable source as Wiki, why don't you actually watch the video and see what Hillary says with her own mouth?

    May 2, 2008 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  18. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    McCain's comment about eating deep fried Twinkies and pork chops on sticks make me think that he wants everybody to eat that so we don't have to worry about health care. Eating like that will kill us all fairly quickly if that is all we ate.

    May 2, 2008 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  19. norb

    I like it when John waves to the crowd. Me hate fire! You go John.
    McCain/Lieberman/Keating 08!

    May 2, 2008 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  20. Justme

    I just googled info regarding larry sinclair and I must say its disgusting and unsubstaniated ....Dear God help these people

    May 2, 2008 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  21. Obama the liar

    He lies about Selma and his birth, he lies about Rev.Wright, he lies about Rezko, he lies about his house deal, he lies about Sinclair, he lies about his father, major lies abound.

    May 2, 2008 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  22. Tommy

    Moore & Sharon Minnesota – Paul vs Clinton is still and ongoing fraud case. Read the details and you might be as disgusted as the rest who have. Would surely be an election killer that the Republican's would have no problem using against her. Think about that!

    May 2, 2008 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  23. RealityKing

    Meanwhile, the democrat's cage match to the death continues...

    Who/What's getting old??

    May 2, 2008 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  24. Change 2008

    Since the media is refusing to reveal/report the Paul vs Clinton fraud case in court right now, we need to create our own movement and flood every blog on CNN and every blogging website on the World Wide Web with information from the case regardless of what the topic is. For those that don't know – Google Paul vs Clinton and hold on to your shirt with what you read!! L.A., California Case #BC304174

    For those of you who think this case has been thrown out – is hasn’t, or is irrelevant – think again:

    May 2, 2008 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  25. Tim in Canada

    Why on earth is Hillary looking for another war(with Iran)? She's gone from fear to war mongering, like enough people haven't died because of her.

    May 2, 2008 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
1 2 3