Best and worst of times - plus the possibility of Clinton-Bush rematch
America: Few events could equal the sense of being at the epicentre of history in Chicago on election right
I felt a certain empathy for both candidates when the seemingly endless succession of airports, hotel rooms and campaign rallies ground to a halt on Wednesday morning.
President Obama, not a man prone to public displays of emotion, shed tears when thanking campaign staff in Chicago. That’s what people do when they’re tired.
As he disappears into the black hole of failed presidential candidates, Mitt Romney must be wondering what he’ll do with his life. Romney’s conservative fiscal instincts kicked in at the hour of defeat. By the time staff took taxis home from his concession speech, their campaign credit cards had already been cut off.
The campaign gave me some of the best and worst times I’ve known as a reporter. Few events could equal that sense of being at the epicentre of history in Chicago on election night. I’d been sorry to miss the 2008 celebration, but perhaps this one was better. Hope restored after trials and tribulations is coated with a patina of bittersweetness.
My worst moments also coincided with an Obama speech, through no fault of his. I covered the last two nights of the Democratic convention in Charlotte in a haze of codeine painkillers, from a Ramada Inn with peeling wallpaper and cockroaches, after tearing the ligaments in my right ankle.
When Romney’s “47 per cent video” was released in September, I recalled Bruce Perrault, a retired teacher I met at a Romney rally in New Hampshire last January. Perrault expressed disgust with the 47 per cent of Americans who don’t pay income tax.
The idea was obviously percolating in Republican circles.
I heard Obama called a communist Muslim, and Romney a fascist. I learned not to object to such nonsense; it made interviewees snap shut like clams. Romney rallies offered surreal moments: women in dirndls serving strudel to the sound of polka music in little Bavaria; the candidate boasting to an empty football stadium in Detroit that “my wife drives a couple of Cadillacs”.
There was humour too. Arriving at a Tea Party rally in a Michigan backwater on a cold night, I was greeted by a half-dozen youths brandishing “Don’t Believe the Liberal Media” placards. “I am the liberal media,” I blurted out, and we laughed together. They weren’t ideologues at all; just hard-up college students turned mercenaries for a right-wing group in Virginia.
A Tea Party activist in Florida said No to an interview because he’d read my reporting on the internet and didn’t like it. Right-wing candidates did not respond to interview requests, I suspect for the same reason.