Thompson set-up

I am sitting on a chair, bent over at the waist, typing on a laptop that is perched on a media riser that’s about 24 inches off the ground. 

"What are you plugging in?" an irate Thompson staffer dressed in a suit asked of my laptop power cord.

"My laptop," I replied.

"Well, it’s my power source.  I want to know," he replied.

In consultation with my other colleagues in the Iowa press corps, that is the essence of the less-than-warm welcome for the Iowa media.  To be fair, I am at the side media riser where the sound system is set up.  The main media riser is overcrowded and while I showed up an hour and a half before the event, I was the last person to get a spot in the mult-box (that mult-box is a device which provides an audio feed).  The sound man is pumping Journey through the system right now.

The set-up here at the Polk County Convention Complex is a bit surreal.  The stage reminds newsman Todd Dorman of Capricorn One, a movie about a fake landing on Mars.  To describe the set-up, we are in a decidedly gray room — gray floor, gray walls.  The walls are adorned by hand-painted signs, some of which declare that "Iowa (hearts) Jeri!"  That would be Thompson’s wife.

The stage, which requires three steps to attain, has a US flag and the state flag and a lectern with a "Fred 2008 Thompson" placard on the front.  (Apparently Thompson’s parents knew he would be running for president all these years hence and decided his middle name should be 2008.)  The stage itself is dominated by four faux-marble columns standing nearly to the ceiling. It reminds me of the fake Parthenon the folks built in Nashville. There are three huge video screens that will feature a more than life-sized image of the candidate, should there be a video of him presented. 

On my way in I ran into political insider Bob Haus, a veteran of several Iowa campaigns and campaign manager of Phil Gramm’s 1996 outing here.  He has joined the Thompson campaign as an advisor.

A sound check is going on.  "This is Fred Thomas for president," the gentleman says.  Twice.  Now three times.  We are laughing.  Someone from the campaign is advising him of the candidate’s last name.

The gentleman running the sound system has just offered us "free batteries."  One of my Iowa colleagues claims them.  And sound system man laughed about the "Thomas" flub, so he has a sense of humor.

The crowd started filing in at about 1:30 p.m.  Representative Clel Baudler, a retired trooper from Greenfield who could go toe to toe with Thompson in spitting out the folksy sayings, just stopped by our set-up.  We (Radio Iowa, Lee Newspaper’s bureau & Cedar Rapids Gazette) are known as the "kids’ table" now.

Representative Lance Horbach of Tama just walked in.  "Are you a Fred supporter?" Rod Boshard of the Cedar Rapids Gazeete just asked him.  "No, I’m just here to listen."

John Mellencamp, via recording — of course, is now singing to the crowd — Rockin’ in the USA.  I’m not sure, but he may have been John Cougar Mellencamp at the time this was recorded, however.

Google_earth_kay Audience members have been asked to turn off their cell phones or put their ringers on mute.  The Thompson staff is apparently handing tiny flags to folks as they walk in.

Now, Johnny Cash is singing "I’ve been everywhere."  I’m going to post this now and come back with a live blog.

Update: Newsman Todd Dorman captured this "Google Earth" shot of me writing this post.

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.