Whenever John King, USA hits the road, one of the most important things a producer can do is make sure everyone in our road family gets at least one good meal a day. Some days, we are all more successful than others. When all else fails, we are great connoisseurs of fast food and quick sandwiches because we have to drive between locations.
On Monday, we ran around during the morning following the Labor Day Parade in Pittsburgh. There were more people on this trip than usual. Dana Bash, Jessica Yellin and Gloria Borger joined us on this trip. During the day, there were too many people to work in the Election Express. Fortunately, there were businesses near by that we split up and spread out. In the afternoon, DiFores Ice Cream Delight dropped off two grocery bags full of soft serve ice cream. Right before show time, it was the perfect treat. I opted for the pistachio and vanilla swirl.
This trip required us to work all day preparing for the show. Then post show, we would drive onto the next city. The distance between Pittsburgh and Columbus is three hours and then Columbus to Covington is another two.
Our first night drive was that Pittsburgh to Columbus long haul. We had a brief time between the show and John¹s live appearance on AC360. There was going to be no sit down dinner that night. Instead of the usual fast food, we stopped for two slices at Giovanni's Pizza and Pasta. It is was near our hotel and always busy. Sometimes, that is the best gauge of where to pick a place. The crust was crispy and thin. It filled us up and on we went.
The Columbus segment of the trip was well researched and we had more time. Susie Xu, a JKUSA producer was on the trip and got in contact with a friend who lives in Columbus. Personal recommendations have never been wrong.
We ended up having lunch in a neighborhood called German Village and spent the rest of our day eating there. We had lunch at the German Village Coffee Shop. John had a breakfast selection while Susie and I went with lunch. My BLT was substantial and the fries were the perfect compliment cooked crispy.
While we were walking out, Susie and I noticed Bakery Gingham a wedding cake, cupcake and ice cream shop next door. We purchased two dozen cupcakes to bring back to the CNN Election Express for everyone to enjoy. I can tell you in many years on the road, this was a first. Usually, our treats consist of beef jerky, pretzels and nuts.
The Bakery Gingham special cupcake was in honor of the first football game of The Ohio State University. "The Buckeye Nation" is a chocolate cupcake with butter cream peanut butter frosting. But, that is not the best part. The center holds a buckeye. No, a real poisonous nut isn't in there. Rather, it is the chocolate and peanut butter candy version. The cupcake is rich, but well worth the indulgence. They were the first four to go out of twenty-four.
Dinner was an experience that we all will talk about for years to come. Photojournalist Jeremy Harlan enjoyed the "Thurmanator" at the Thurman Café. If you remember the 1980's movie, the Great Outdoors and John Candy versus the "Old 96er" you will get the idea. The "Thurmanator" is a majestic burger that stands close to 6 inches in height. There are two patties, bacon, ham, mayo, tomato, onions, pickles and loads of cheese. Jeremy ate the burger and skipped the fries. But, like the "Old 96er" in the movie, Jeremy got the free t-shirt for finishing his burger.
The last night was my favorite meal. During the 2008 campaign, I discovered the simple treat of fried pickles. Any photojournalist that comes to Covington, Kentucky with me knows that we will have one meal at the Behle Street Café near our hotel. I ordered two plates of the deep fried delights for the table to share. There were twelve of us on the crew celebrating our last show. The Behle Street Café does their pickles as pickle chips with a light breading. I couldn't tell you what the dipping sauce is because I usually enjoy them straight.
And my secret to eating all these treats: The hotel gym.
John King is teaming up with Gowalla, the location based mobile and web service, to share his experiences from the road. Last year, John visited all 50 states following President Barack Obama’s inauguration and sat down with residents in local diners to hear their stories and discuss important issues.
John has compiled his favorite diners for Gowalla and you can now visit them as well. To participate and see the trips John has created, Gowalla users should follow John by going to John King, USA’s Gowalla page and clicking the "follow John King, USA" button in the right column. You will then have access to John’s custom Trips at Gowalla.com or on your smartphone via the Gowalla app.
Editor's note: Look for regular Trail Running field updates from CNN's anchors, correspondents and producers spread out across the country covering politics on the campaign trail. As always, the CNN Political Ticker is your source for up-to-the-minute political news– now even more so.
11:45 a.m. – District of Columbia mayoral candidate Vincent Gray tells CNN creating jobs in struggling African American neighborhoods is his top priority if he wins.
Gray says what he describes as Mayor Adrian Fenty's "apology tour" seems more a tactic than genuine contrition.
Also, should he win Tuesday's Democratic primary, Gray, the current city council chairman, promises a quick sit down with Schools Chancellor and Fenty ally Michelle Rhee to see if they can agree on her staying on.
Still, Gray stresses school reform is "not about one person." Gray didn't say so, but sources close to him tell CNN top Gray allies already working on Rhee outreach plan with hopes of getting her to stay on should Gray win.
CNN interviewed Gray and Fenty separately as they visited polling stations in the District of Columbia Tuesday morning.
Iggy Pop, "The Passenger"
Van Halen, "I'll Wait"
Everyday we ask influential politicos to send us their top three bullet points that are driving the day's conversation in and outside Washington:
Happy Election Day in seven states and the District of Columbia. I got out to visit with the two leading candidates for DC mayor today and it was a joy just to see people voting and the workers for rival candidates swapping stories and getting along just fine. We get grumpy in our democracy sometimes, and for good reason, but we are extraordinarily lucky and should remember that. Speech over! On to the bullet points: two smart guys breaking down the biggest races and forces on display today and this election year. From Erick, just a good raw glimpse at the ideological soul searching on the right. A different Republican Party is emerging from the primaries this year, and it will be fascinating to see how the established party leaders here in DC adapt, or resist. John’s fascination is the shifting center of American politics, and he offers several compelling races to watch the struggle between more centrist, pragmatic candidates and those who are more ideological and movement driven. One news top re Avlon point 3: During the campaign, Gray benefited from teachers union spending and unhappiness with incumbent Fenty. But he told me today he would meet with Fenty ally and DC Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee ASAP if he wins, and several close Gray associates tell me they already are working on an outreach effort in hopes she would stay on even if her choice for mayor loses tonight. - John King
RedState.Com Editor Erick-Woods Erickson:
- Republicans in Washington are already trying to set their November narrative that they won in spite of conservatives. The facts disprove them.
- Republicans are distancing themselves from John Boehner's talk of compromise on tax increases.
- Reality is starting to dawn on left-leaning talking heads. We can tell because they are in a growing chorus lamenting democracy and the American people.
Senior Political Columnist for TheDailyBeast.com John Avlon:
- Castle v O’Donnell in Delaware – This is a struggle for the soul of the Republican Party. Congressman Mike Castle is a respected and popular former governor who polls show would easily win Joe Biden’s senate seat in the fall. Christine O’Donnell is a professional social conservative activist (anti-abortion, pro-gay conversion therapy) who has never held elected office and has been conducting an ugly whisper campaign against Castle. I believe she’s unelectable in the fall with a long list of scandals following her. But despite Mike Castle’s record of cutting the income tax three times as Governor and voting against the stimulus bill, the Tea Party Express is against the pro-choice Congressman. It’s RINO hunting pure and simple, pitting the Chris Christie wing of the GOP against Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh and Co.
- New York Senate race – Lazio and Malpass against Paladino and DioGuardi. Perhaps the only state in the union where things are looking good for Democrats is the Empire State. The longtime presumptive gubernatorial nominee Rick Lazio is a respected candidate against Andrew Cuomo. Economist and Forbes columnist David Malpass would make a great contrast and competition of ideas between the appointed incumbent Kirsten Gillibrand. But western New York’s biggest landlord, Carl Paladino, has been trying to ride the Tea Party wave to the gubernatorial nomination over Lazio and he’s been gaining ground, while former Congressman Joe DioGuardi is trying to surf the same Tea Party wave. This might be a serious upset for the already beleaguered NY GOP.
- DC Mayor Adrian Fenty versus Vincent Gray – Fenty’s made some political missteps in keeping his local coalition together, but DC is better off than it was four year’s ago. Nonetheless, polls also show that Fenty could be heading for a primary loss today. This would be devastating not just for Fenty but also for the education reform movement. Fenty and his schools chancellor Michelle Rhee have taken on the Teachers Union in pushing reforms like merit pay and charter schools – now the Teachers Union is pushing back through the closed partisan primary – a warning to other independent minded reform mayors who don’t march to the union’s drumbeat.