The last time I went along on a bus tour was when John Edwards was running for President. He was traveling from city to city in South Carolina trying to win the Primary.
A lot has changed since then ... for Edwards and politics in general. I like political bus tours. You see the candidate up close, you get a true sense of what they’re like (in front and behind the cameras), and you see how passionate people are to see their candidate. It’s American Politics at its core.
So when the Romney campaign asked me to come along for this weekend’s bus tour in North Carolina, I quickly said yes. But this bus tour was different. Mitt Romney announced his VP choice the day before the bus tour happened. That changed the “purpose” of the tour.
Essentially, it would mean the national media would be all over it and the one on one interview that I was approved for would instead go to "60 Minutes.” I’m not bitter - I would do the same thing if I was orchestrating a campaign for a Presidential candidate of the United States.
When I interviewed Romney back in May, people would ask me, "What is he really like?"
Here’s what I told them then and still say: Mitt Romney was much more relaxed in our one-on-one interview than what you typically see on stage during his stump speeches.
And the same was true for this bus tour. Mitt Romney seems looser now that Paul Ryan is on the ticket. And his supporters know it.
Many of them told me they thought Romney seemed more relaxed and personable this weekend. So is Ryan a game changer? Will more people focus on Ryan than Romney? And how does the Obama team react?
The bus tour started as a Romney blitz on the swing states. It turned into a "Meet Paul Ryan" party and the national media ate it up. I’ve heard it all in the last two days (either on network coverage or standing next to national correspondents): everything from "Ryan does P90X" to "someone needs to tell him to not wear such baggy clothes." So yes, the bus tour sheds light on the candidates (for the media and the public).
But does someone make a decision on voting for or against a candidate because of a bus tour?
I doubt it, but it certainly gets a town talking. More than 1,000 people showed up in Mooresville and nearly 15,000 in High Point.
That gets people talking and that’s why you’ll likely see the great American bus tour live on and ride on for elections and years to come.