My family and I are currently in northern Utah visiting family. While running on a treadmill at the gym yesterday morning, I noticed on the news that Mitt Romney was going to be in Utah for an event to affirm his support for Senator Orrin Hatch in the upcoming Utah primary election. Given my profession, interests, and habits of attending campaign events that involve prominent political officials and candidates, I thought: “what other chance am I going to have to attend a presidential campaign event this year?” After all, neither he nor President Obama are going to be spending much time campaigning in Kentucky!
So I pulled up Mitt Romney’s daily schedule on Politico.com for June 8, 2012. It lists the following:
2:25 PM – Hosting campaign event at Tac Air
303 North 2370 West, Salt Lake City, Utah
Perfect! We were going to be driving south that day to visit family in Provo and we’d be passing through Salt Lake mid-afternoon. It couldn’t be more convenient. After much cajoling, my sweet, patient, kind, wonderful wife agreed to let me alter our plans for the afternoon to attend this event. (This wasn’t the first time we had seen Mr. Romney in person. We were in Ames, Iowa for the 2007 GOP Straw Poll the first time he ran for president and got to see him up close there.)
So we showed up at the airport terminal at 1:30 PM. Thought I: “since this is Utah, there are of course going to be hundreds of people attending an official campaign event with Mitt Romney.” So I was a bit surprised to find only one other person there. He informed us that the Secret Service people had explained to him that this was going to be a private event and closed to the public.
At this point, not only did I feel a little misled by the event listed on Romney’s daily schedule (see the description: “hosting campaign event” – doesn’t that sound like it’s open to the public???) but now I felt a little sheepish for having spent so much of my persuasive capital getting my wife to agree to change our travel plans so we could be there for the great event.
Oh, well. Since she’s wonderful she agreed to see it through to the end. By the time 2:30 arrived a whopping two dozen people and four news reporters had shown up. And some more Secret Service agents – so it was actually getting a little exciting:
The chatter was that even though it was going to be a private “campaign event”, maybe Governor Romney would notice the two dozen people who had shown up to see him and get out and shake hands? And we had our three-year-old daughter with us. Surely he’d go for the photo-op with an adorable little girl?
This is what happened: Romney’s plan landed, Senator Hatch met him on the tarmac, and they got into an SUV together (all out of sight of us spectators). Then they drove out of the terminal and made their way to a fund-raiser in Salt Lake City. For our troubles, Governor Romney gave us a consolation wave from the inside the vehicle:
That’s him in the back. You can see his fingers and some of his profile. Orrin Hatch was sitting on the other side but we couldn’t see him from our side of the vehicle.
So that was it! That was the extent of the “campaign event” that we had attended. I have to admit… it wasn’t quite what I was expecting it to be…
The real action came after the candidate had left. The four news reporters came and interviewed some of us who had made the effort to attend. I got on the evening news. My memorable quote: “We waited 45 minutes to attend a 3-second event…. I suppose it was something.” The reporter also asked why I was supporting Mitt Romney (notice the explicit assumption present in her question). In the split second I had to formulate an answer, I demurred: “Well… I’m a political science professor so I like to attend all sorts of campaign events for political candidates.” They also aired footage of our daughter playing with her dinosaur toys in the grass near the tarmac that made it on TV.
Thus began and ended the closest that I’ll likely get to either of the two presidential candidates this election season. Maybe I’ll get to meet the vice presidential candidates when they come to Danville this October for their big debate!