This is my first trip to Iowa. I like it. It's refreshing. Refreshing to see kids out on a Tuesday night, yelling at a political rally. Refreshing to see political rock stars speak in high school gyms. Refreshing to be in a high school gym again, actually.
There are few places that feel so authentically American, and feel so much the same no matter where you are in America. The sweet-stale smell of a thousand games and 10,000 jerseys, the thunder of the risers crashing open, that suspicious, chalky dust you pick up from the glossy wood floor.
It's fitting that high school gyms are where men such as John McCain and Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney must spend their time to win an American presidency. It's also telling that the Democratic nominees spend the same amount of time in the same places and still manage to misunderstand a wide swath of America, whose lives are largely wrapped up in the very gyms they speak in.
Here's my day, in pictures...
Arrived on a prop plane. Luckily, I'm a pretty good flyer, but this baby had several disconcerting properties-- chief among them the fact that the craft was old enough to still have ashtrays at each seat and the co-pilot was too young to buy a pack of cigarettes, best I could judge.
In Iowa, the Quarter Pounder w/ Cheese meal is No. 3, not No. 2. Whole different world in middle America, folks. No wonder politicians have trouble connecting.
Swanky press check-in. I love it that the major media's political reporters are being directed around high school hallways with poster board and markers. Makes you wonder how they get so big-headed.
Rudy-mania! Everyone wanted an autograph.
Rudy in the Valley High School Tiger Pit. The "G" above his head is the "G" in Tigers. His stage was set up at half-court, and the crowd filled half the gym pretty snuggly, but not to overflowing. I expected a bigger crowd.
The back-drop was decorated by local supporters. Or, that's what it looked like. These could have been slick, campaign-produced signs made to look like local support. Ahhh, politics.
The major media sets up under the Tigers' scoreboard.
The swarming was pretty healthy after Rudy finished speaking. The speech was short and well-received. He didn't hit on social issues, but no one seemed to mind. I talked to several evangelicals who were just happy to hear America's mayor talk about terrorism.
Another crowd shot.
In the digital crosshairs.
The pin guy was a supporter from St. Louis.
I call this "Folding Chairs for Rudy."
The gym, post-Rudy rally. More later. Plane's taking off.