Ohio’s a battleground state. We all know that. Lucky for me that Dayton always seems a stop on the campaign bus tours. When I heard that Michelle Obama would be visiting Dayton, actually less than two miles from my house, I knew I should probably get there. I sent off a credential request on Friday, and by Monday morning, I was confirmed and given instructions.
Last time I saw a part of an election year campaign, I was a senior in high school. I was able to snag tickets to the McCain rally at the Ervin J. Nutter Center in Fairborn, Ohio, where the senator surprised the crowd and country by introducing Sarah Palin as his running mate on the Republican ticket. A few weeks later, I was able to sign myself out of school for a self-led “enrichment activity” (a rally) for Barack Obama that was held just blocks from my school, at Fifth Third Field.
The first lady’s visit didn’t mean near as much campaign-wise as the previous rallies I’ve been to. This is more of a practice run. I know Obama and his opponent Mitt Romney will be visiting Dayton at least once before November. I’m planning on doing everything in my control to be at those events. This is a practice run. A little less security (I presume), a lot less buzz, a lot less people, and a lot less media.
Part one of the day was dropping my gear off so that bomb-sniffing dogs and extra-thorough Secret Service agents could rummage through my bag to make sure I didn’t have any bazookas modded to fit in my 70-200. Rest assured, I didn’t.
The doors opened to the media at 1:15 p.m. The press releases indicated that the event may begin around 3:10 p.m. I was a bit doubtful of that. Considering it’s not the president, I arrived at 1:45 pm. which is a half hour before the doors for the general public were supposed to close. A quick, no-line, easy check by security, and I was in. Still over an hour away, I had nothing pressing to do since I wasn’t on deadline. I live-tweeted photos and info, looked for angles, and generally wandered around before things finally started up. Thank God for iPhones.
The first speakers took the stage a couple minutes past 3 p.m., but it wasn’t until 3:49 p.m. that FLOTUS emerged from behind the curtain. I’m not complaining about her being late. I’ve heard stories of some politicians over the years being multiple hours late for events.
She was done working the rope line at 4:34 p.m., and it was my time to head home. Overall, it was a solid, small-scale warm-up to when the president and Romney roll into town in the coming months. Now if only next time I can get access to the open area immediately in front of the stage like AP and others…
NOTE: These images are available for licensing. Also, I am available to provide political campaign coverage around cities like Dayton, Cincinnati, Columbus, Indianapolis, Louisville, or points between. Contact me.