By Laurie Au
On Friday, the last day of Sen. Barack Obama’s brief stay in Hawaii to visit his ailing grandmother, I rode along with his traveling press. (See the Star-Bulletin’s story published today here.)
It’s common practice for the campaign to invite a member of the local press onto the tour bus to file “pool reports” throughout the day, letting other media know the Democratic presidential nominee’s every step. (Star-Bulletin reporter B.J. Reyes and other local media did the same during his weeklong vacation in August.)
Most of the media traveling in the pool have been with Obama’s campaign for more than a year, and even one who traveled with him since he announced his candidacy nearly two years ago.
The campaign is good to his traveling press, stocking the bus with lots of magazines (from Time, Newsweek and Vanity Fair to Us Weekly and People) and with lots of junk food of chips and Diet Coke. I had stale pita chips and hummus for breakfast. The campaign did add in some local flavor, including canned Aloha Maid tropical orange juice.
Our day started at 6:30 a.m. outside his hotel, the Hyatt Regency Hotel, where Obama would usually stay on his annual winter trips to Hawaii. We knew it wouldn’t be an exciting day, and it wasn’t. Most of our time was spent in the lobby of Punahou Circle Apartments, where he grew up with his 85-year-old grandmother, Madelyn Dunham.
The only exciting part of the day occurred shortly after 10 a.m., when his campaign aides told us Obama would be taking a walk along Young Street in his old Makiki neighborhood. Apparently there was some confusion, though, because by the time we reached Young Street, Obama was already two blocks away, forcing about a dozen of us — media and staff — to chase after him. We stopped a respectful distance away, but he still appeared down and slightly unhappy to see us.
Our day ended just after 5 p.m. when Obama and more than 60 other staff and media boarded his private plane to Nevada for more campaigning.