Category Archives: James Smith

Noah Barker: ‘Make the president Christ-like again.’

Noah may love Joe almost as much as I do. That's him in the white shirt and no jacket, very excited to be right next to the ex-veep the day he came to campaign for us in 2018. That's me in the middle in the back, next to Campaign Manager Scott Hogan.

Noah may love Joe almost as much as I do. That’s him in the white shirt and no jacket, a 17-year-old pretty excited to be right next to the ex-veep the day he came to campaign for us in 2018. That’s me in the middle in the back, next to Campaign Manager Scott Hogan.

Today I called my young friend Noah Barker, fellow Smith-Norrell veteran, to talk about yard signs. He’s the one who got me some Biden signs for my neighbors, as related earlier.

Noah, who’s now a student at USC, happened to mention an opinion piece he had written for Medium — a website I had not been familiar with, but which seems to have been around for several years now. He wanted me to take a look at it and see what I thought.

I got a little panicky when I saw the headline, “Make the president Christ-like again.” I thought, whoa, Noah — we both love Joe, but let’s not go overboard! But almost immediately after that, I knew what he meant, and it worked. I could tell that from the photo with the piece: There was Joe with his head humbly bowed standing with his mask on among fellow worshipers — as human as you can get. (It would have gone well with that Facebook post I cited awhile back from Sister Nancy Hendershot — which you should go read if you haven’t.)

I read on, and saw that Noah had done a good job. Here’s his piece:

I don’t often write about my faith. I usually refrain from these types of writing because of two different lessons that I was taught as a child.

The first one was a favorite saying of my grandfather, Wilson Bryan, who would say “Preach the Gospel; if necessary, use words.” He believed that you shouldn’t have to utter the words “well, you know, I’m a Christian.” The way you treat others should show folks that something is fundamentally different about your life.

The other lesson was from Jesus, who according to the Book of Matthew said, “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners… But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen” (6:5–6).

However, I’m breaking this rule to write this essay. After watching the Democratic National Convention this past week, I couldn’t keep these thoughts to myself any longer.

It has been hard for me to watch fellow Christians continue to support a man like Donald Trump. He lies, he cheats, he steals. He spews hatred and breeds bigotry. He makes fun of others and he is never hesitant to give an opponent of his a childish nickname (see “Slow Joe” or “Pencil-neck Adam Schiff”). He never forgives and he never asks for forgiveness.

Sometimes, when I am listening to him rant and rave I’m reminded of the words of Paul the Apostle. In his letter to the people of Galatia, Paul outlines the Fruit of the Holy Spirit. In case you haven’t walked by your old Sunday school class and seen that poster in a while, these nine attributes are: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

I think of these nine attributes because I have never witnessed Donald Trump show any of them in his public life. Now, this has nothing to do with me being a Democrat, which I am. I saw these nine attributes present in the life of George W. Bush, a man that I almost never agreed with. They were also present in the lives of almost-presidents, like John McCain and Mitt Romney.

This is not about politics. It’s not about policy. It’s not about the Supreme Court or abortion. This is about character.

Now, let me say, I am in no position to question whether someone is a Christian or not. Donald Trump has said that he is and that is between him and God. Full stop.

However, when it comes to electing a president, I want someone who shows me that they are Christian, not tells me. I want a leader who isn’t just a Christian, I want someone in the Oval Office that acts Christ-like.

I don’t mean performing miracles or being perfect; we all fall short of the glory of God.

But, I at least want someone who tries.

Who tries to be kind.

Who tries to be honest.

Who tries to heal the wounds of our nation.

I want a president who uses love to unite us.

Who loves his enemies and prays for those who persecute him.

That’s not Donald Trump. That’s not his story. It’s not his life.

On the other hand, Joe Biden isn’t perfect, and unlike Donald Trump, Joe would be the first person to tell you that. He’s not the second coming and he’s not the Messiah, and he certainly doesn’t act like he is.

We’ve all heard the countless stories of Joe Biden comforting those with a sick loved onehelping those with a stutter, or just being kind to the people that are around him.

I believe he is a fundamentally decent man, warts and all.

I don’t agree with Joe Biden on everything, but I believe it is our job as voters to choose the better person and in this case, the better man.

That choice is clear to me.

This November, I’m voting to make the president Christ-like again.

Noah describes himself at the end as “78th Governor of Palmetto Boy’s State | Son of Lugoff, South Carolina | UofSC’23 |”

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Good to see my friends connecting on Twitter

Doug and Mandy

Wonder what Doug Ross is up to during his year without blogging (due to a New Year’s resolution that he has impressed us all by keeping)?

Well, he’s doing pretty much the same stuff, only on Twitter.

I had to smile today at the exchange pictured above in a screenshot.

It’s nice to see two of my friends getting together to work on issues on Twitter.

Of course, as I reported earlier, Doug is also a contributor to Mandy’s re-election campaign. So, good for him there, as well.

As for the issue itself, of course… I’m kinda “meh” on it. Either way, whatever. I sort of get the impression Mandy feels the same way. I can’t remember whether I’ve ever discussed it with her.

I know I’ve discussed it with James, though. In fact, I went and dug up a statement I put together for him about it during the campaign. It’s not something we ran on. But a reporter in Charleston was doing a story about it, and asking various pols for statements. I wasn’t crazy about commenting on things we weren’t running on — I had ambitions of imposing message discipline — but we didn’t turn our noses up at it the way we did stupid “have you stopped beating your wife” questions like “Do you want to abolish ICE?”

Anyway… here’s what I put together on it. I have no way of knowing whether we actually put it out like this. It’s just in a random Word file, not a release or anything. So James might have had me change it before giving it to the reporter:

I’m for regulating it and getting the revenue that the state is missing out on now.

I’m not pro-gambling per se. But this is a matter of common sense, and an example of what I mean when I say it’s not about big government or small government – I’m for smart government.

As everyone knows, people are already betting on sports in South Carolina, big-time. But it’s happening in the shadows, and its an invitation to crime.

We need to regulate it, and keep criminals from controlling and profiting from it.

And the state of South Carolina can certainly use the revenue. I’ve seen figures that estimate Rhode Island could net $25 million from sports betting. If that’s correct, South Carolina would easily see quite a lot more, since we have five times the population. That’s money we could really use, for schools, for infrastructure, for healthcare, for public safety.

So, you know, we were for regulating it if you really wanted an answer. Assuming that was the official statement. I don’t think anyone but that one reporter ever used any of it.

McMaster’s position, by the way, was that he was dead set against it, as his mouthpiece said: “It flies in the face of everything South Carolina stands for.” Highly debatable, of course, but you knew where he stood.

We were much more definitely for medical cannabis, which if if I remember correctly was one of the reasons Doug not only gave to our campaign, but voted for us. Not an issue I would have chosen to back our ticket over, but then I’m not a libertarian like our friend Doug….

The super-cool art of Kirkland Thomas Smith

On October 17, 2018, the day of the first of two gubernatorial debates, the campaign booked a suite at the Hotel Florence — which is a pretty neat place, in case you’ve never checked it out. (And I’m not just saying that because of, as a Pee Dee boy, having a tendency to see Florence as the “big city.” It actually is a pretty cool hotel.)

The suite had a terrace, from which you could see the civic center where the debate would be. James sat out there for awhile alone, studying a bit for the debate, and we talked a bit of strategy around the suite’s dining-room table. But mostly we sat about killing time — James was not a great one for debate prep. He just got his head into the place where it needed to be, and went out and mopped the floor with Henry. Not that it did us any good on Election Day.

I’ve got some photos from that afternoon. There’s Scott Hogan, the campaign manager, on the couch staring at his phone. There’s Phil Chambers on his laptop at the table. There’s Mandy Powers Norrell ironing her dress for that night.

But the person most absorbed in a task was the candidate’s wife, Kirkland Thomas Smith. She was busy making a dress out of beer can pull tabs. She said she was making it for the inaugural ball — then asked whether we thought that was a bad idea. I guessed she meant, was she jinxing the campaign? I don’t think so. I think we can chalk up the loss to other causes — such as most white South Carolinians being physically incapable of pulling the lever for a Democrat.

Anyway, Kirkland is always doing something cool like that, something surprisingly creative. Things like this four-foot-square portrait of James that hung in the foyer of our campaign HQ. That’s what she does. I felt privileged to get to know her better during the campaign.

And I thought I’d share the “Artist Minute” that Alan Cooper put on his site, MidlandsBiz, which shows Kirkland talking about her amazing artwork that she creates from junk. I can’t even begin to see how she takes debris and turns it into a recognizable portrait.

I can’t wait to see what she creates next…

A completed part of the dress Kirkland was working on, sitting on the table in the hotel suite. At top you see a memo of talking points I had put together for the debate. Not that James needed it. He knew what his talking points were.

A completed part of the dress Kirkland was working on, sitting on the table in the hotel suite. Under it you see a memo of talking points I had put together for the debate. Not that James needed it. He knew what his talking points were. But I felt like, as communications director, I should do something to prepare.

If you voted for James Smith — or any of these other top SC Democrats — then you should be voting for Joe Biden

Joe Biden campaigning with us in October 2018.

Joe Biden campaigning with us in October 2018.

In some very important ways, the Joe Biden campaign for president in South Carolina is, in my view, a continuation of the James Smith for governor campaign.

It’s not just that James himself is supporting Joe, as Joe supported him. At the recent Biden event at 701 Whaley, I was struck by how many of our key people from the 2018 campaign were continuing the mission by supporting Joe. It’s something I’d been aware of for some time, but hadn’t really thought about for a simple reason — it just seemed the most natural thing in the world.

At the top, you have Kendall Corley — who was our political director in 2018 — heading up Biden’s campaign in South Carolina. And Biden’s state political director is Scott Harriford, who was James’ driver and “body man” in 2018, and held the title of deputy political director. Scott was the first person James hired for the campaign, back in the summer of 2017, and was right there at his side from then through Election Day. (I thought I had an intense, whirlwind experience those last eight days on “the bus,” but Scott had been doing it for way over a year.)

Smith campaign alumni Ashley Medbery Floyd, me, and Noah Barker at a Biden event on Feb. 11.

Smith campaign alumni Ashley Medbery Floyd, me, and Noah Barker at a Biden event on Feb. 11.

At the 701 Whaley event I ran into Noah Barker, who assisted me with social media in 2018. Noah, who I think has reached the ripe old age of 19, is now working for the Biden campaign while attending college.

And while she’s not actually working in the Biden operation — she’s helping Jaime Harrison run against Lindsey Graham instead — Ashley Medbery Floyd, our finance directer in 2018, was at the 701 event, too. She and Noah and I marked the occasion with a selfie.

All this is natural because, well, there is such a bond between Joe and James. Their shared values are such that I don’t see how anyone who really believed in James in 2018 — and as his communications director, I certainly did and do — could possibly do anything but support Joe.

One of the things that drove me nuts back during the campaign was the way the political reporters went ape over anything having to do with 2020 presidential candidates coming through the state. They’d call me and ask what we’d be doing together with so-and-so on his or her swing through the state, or what we had to say about it, and it would put me in a bind. We didn’t want to say anything unkind about these national Democrats, but at the same time, we couldn’t have cared less about their visits. They were here for themselves, not for us.

But not Joe. Joe was our guy, and we couldn’t wait to see him. We knew he was coming, and we were really disappointed when he had to postpone his initially planned event because of complications related to the hurricane. But finally, on Oct. 13, he came down to Charleston to do a fund-raiser for us, and it was possibly the best day of my time on the campaign. And I could tell it was a high point for everyone else. (It was such a big deal that upon arriving in Charleston, Campaign Manager Scott Hogan went to a shop on King Street and bought himself a suit, and wore it to the event. You have to know Hogan to get what a big deal that was. He normally dressed like a guy about to go out and mow the lawn.)

Anyway, I could go on and on about the way one campaign flows into the other, but I have a point to make here, and it is this: If you voted for James, if you believed in James, you should believe in Joe Biden, and vote for him. I don’t see how you work it out any other way.

James is not authorizing me to say this (I haven’t asked him). I’m saying it myself.

As communications director, I think I have as good a grasp of what the Smith campaign was about as anyone does. It was a campaign for all the people of South Carolina — black, white, old young, male, female, Democratic, Republican and independent. It was a campaign that would Leave No One Behind.

And Joe is running the exact same kind of campaign for the soul of the nation.

One more point, an elaboration on that one: Maybe James Smith isn’t your favorite Democrat. He should be, but maybe he isn’t.

Still, if you are a Democrat, or someone who frequently votes for Democrats, you should take note that pretty much every Democrat you have nominated and/or voted into statewide office in the past 20 years and more is supporting Joe Biden for president. And for good reason.

I’m talking not just James, but Vincent Sheheen, who was your standard-bearer twice.

And Jim Hodges, our state’s last Democratic governor.

And Dick Riley, the last Democratic governor before Hodges. (And speaking of great public servants with that name, the greatest mayor of his generation in the country, Joe Riley.)

And Inez Tenenbaum, the last superintendent of education who was (and still is) a Democrat.

Now, Jim Clyburn — the current highest-ranking Democrat in the state, and one of the most powerful in the country — has joined that list. And it’s a long list. The Post and Courier put most of it together a few weeks ago, before Hodges had come out for Joe.

These are people who embody the heart, the core, of what it means to be a Democrat in South Carolina. No one could be more in touch with what South Carolina Democrats care about.

Still speaking to Democrats and people who sometimes vote for them here (let’s call you DAPWSVFTs for short)… These are all people you have believed in in the past, in whom you have placed your trust. Scoff at endorsements all you like, but I’m telling you these are smart people who know these candidates, who know the country and its needs, who know South Carolina, and they are for Joe. They’re putting their reputations out there in support of him, and you might think that’s a small thing, but it isn’t.

These people know what they’re about, and they’re for Joe. And most of you DAPWSVFTs have indicated your respect and support for these people in the past. These are people who share your values.

So it makes all the sense in the world that you would join them in voting for Joe Biden for POTUS on Saturday.

That's Smith campaign veteran Kendall Corley whispering in Joe's ear as he works a crowd on MLK Day in Columbia.

That’s Smith campaign veteran Kendall Corley whispering in Joe’s ear as he works a crowd on MLK Day in Columbia.

No, I’m not. I’m something else, and Joe speaks to that

John Lewis

Having made all sorts of virtual connections as James Smith’s director of communications last year (no, wait — it’s now the year before last!), I’ve grown used to emails such as this one, ostensibly from John Lewis, who as you know is very ill:

Brad,

My team flagged you as a Top Democrat, so I need to you to take my most important survey yet. Will you give your Democratic input in this personalized survey?

Your team is wrong. Their database is wrong. I’m not a top Democrat. I’m not a bottom Democrat. I’m not an in-between Democrat. And Lord knows that in this era, I’m no Republican.

I’m just this guy, you know. A voter. One who looks at teach candidate in each race and does his best to discern whether he or she would do the best — or the least-bad — job in the office in question. I’m a thing undreamt of in your philosophy.

But I’m not unusual, even though so many people involved in politics (and so many who cover politics) act as though I were. There are a lot out here like me. That’s something Joe Biden understands, which is why he says sure, he’d consider a Republican running mate.

Which is an indication of why he’s the one guy running who speaks my language. Just as James Smith was in 2018. James ticked off some Democrats when he picked me to be his spokesman. I hear some Democrats are ticked off now at Joe’s openness to running with a Republican — and by the way, that’s all he said: that he’d be open to it.

James’ openness was an invitation that not enough independents or Republicans took him up on — which was their, and our, loss.

But some of us yearn for that openness, because framing everything as us against them is a dead end for the country. If any of you Democrats doubt that, reflect on the fact that that way of thinking is the main reason Republicans have thrown principle to the winds in their defense of Trump.

What this country desperately needs right now is some open-mindedness among Republicans. That may be too much to hope for right now, but at least there’s a Democrat willing to show them how that’s done…

Yes, Pete: By all means, let the press into your fund-raisers

The event in Greenville on Sept. 17, 2018.

The event in Greenville on Sept. 17, 2018.

This takes me back to my own campaign experience last year:

Presidential contender Pete Buttigieg announced Monday that he would open his fundraisers to journalists and disclose the names of people raising money for his campaign, the latest step in an ongoing skirmish over transparency with Democratic rival Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Reporters will be allowed into Buttigieg’s large-dollar fundraising events starting Tuesday, and the South Bend, Ind., mayor will release a list of his “bundlers” — those who funnel large sums of money to campaigns — within a week, according to Buttigieg campaign manager Mike Schmuhl.

“From the start, Pete has said it is important for every candidate to be open and honest, and his actions have reflected that commitment,” Schmuhl said in a statement….

In the earlier days of my time on James Smith’s campaign, I found myself turning press away from fund-raisers, because that was what the staff wanted to do. I thought it was a rule — one I did not like.

I hated not having the press at these events, sometimes more so than other times. For instance, there was the big event in Greenville on Sept. 17 that had been put together in part by some folks who usually backed Republicans. It was a tremendous event under any circumstances. It was even more important because it was our first event after taking a hiatus because of the hurricane, and it would have been enormously helpful at that moment to have coverage of such an enthusiastic crowd gathering for us in the heart of Republican country.

As it was, an Upstate reporter did a story on the fact that the event was happening, and that caused some positive buzz for us, briefly. But it would have been so much better if we’d had actual coverage, with pictures.

We needed that bounce at that moment. I don’t know if it’s right or not, but there’s a school of thought (to be more specific, one very smart person said it to me shortly after the election, and I think she may have been right) that our week-long pause for the storm — during which we went dark, while Henry was constantly on live TV in a leadership role — killed our campaign. Before it, we were within the margin of error of a tie in polling (and rising, or so it felt); after it we had lost ground and never recovered.

There had been previous events where I’d wished we’d had coverage — including some reporters had specifically asked to cover, and I’d turned them away at the behest of colleagues. But after the Greenville event, I decided to try to change the rule. And when I brought it up to the candidates themselves, James and Mandy immediately said yes.

(Editor’s note: Before posting this, I sent a copy of it to James. I just wanted to make sure I wasn’t saying anything about the campaign that made him uncomfortable. His response was, “If the press was excluded that was done without our knowledge. Those were great events and I liked having the press there.” So did Mandy, he added. I guess I should have mentioned my beef with the policy earlier, now that he points that out. I didn’t know he didn’t know.)

Now let me be clear: This is not a case of Brad Knows Best, or if only they’d listened to me

In fact, on this thing they did listen to me, and we lost anyway. If anything, it looks like I’m to blame for not challenging this “rule” sooner, since it turns out James and Mandy were unaware of it, and agreed with me. So Brad should have gone with his gut to start with.

Why didn’t I? Remember that I was the amateur in this campaign, and before I came on board the staff was operating according to rules that a lot of professionals see as best practices. And from what I gathered, not letting media in to fund-raisers fits into that category. I’d seen it enough in other campaigns. I’ve never fully understood the rationale; maybe it was because of horror stories like Mitt Romney’s 47 percent debacle. (Of course, that’s only a problem if you have a candidate who will say stupid stuff like that.)

But my fellow staffers were the pros, and I respected that. The only professional qualification I had was experience as a journalist covering campaigns (and as an editor supervising people who covered campaigns). And the way the press was covering our campaign made me want to bang my head against a wall. Just one story after another about staffing and strategy and ad buys. I wanted to change the subject to why people would want to vote for James and Mandy, so I wanted reporters at events full of people who could and would eagerly speak to that. Also, I wanted the reporters to feel the vibe in the room. Maybe, just maybe, some of that would creep into the coverage.

Anyway, all that is to say that I think Pete is right to open things up. I applaud it. Of course, my man Joe was already letting the press in…

Greenville 2

Where am I going to put my Joe Biden bumper sticker?

my truck

The above picture, which I posted randomly a couple of days ago, reminds me:

I need to figure out where to put my Joe Biden sticker when I get one. Which I expect will be soon. A couple of weeks back, I ran into my friends Sally and Mark Huguley. Mark was pulling up to the curb in front of St. Peter’s after Mass to pick up Sally, and Sally told him to pull up a few more feet so I could see the Biden sticker on the back of their vehicle.

I was, of course, envious. I need to reach out to Kendall Corley or Scott Harriford, two Smith campaign alumni who are now running the Biden operation in SC, to see if they can get me one. And a yard sign, when they’re available. Time’s a wastin’!

But then I look at the back of my truck, and think, where should I put it? I mean, it’s going to spoil my perfect bipartisan symmetry. All through the campaign, I had my James Smith sticker and my Micah Caskey sticker. And while I was a bit self-conscious parking it at HQ at first, that wasn’t my target audience.

My idea was this: Our single greatest obstacle to winning — and in the end, this is what defeated us probably more than any other factor — was that most white voters in the state have some kind of disability, a mental block. They are incapable of conceiving of voting for someone with a D after his name. They don’t think it’s a thing that a person can do.

If I could just get ONE voter, driving behind me, to think, “Whoa! This guy who votes for Republicans just like I do is also voting for James Smith. I wonder why,” then it would be worth any dirty looks I got from Democrats.

Oh, and if you think people don’t have thoughts like that, you’re wrong. Humans are hugely suggestible. Maybe they shouldn’t be, but the Bandwagon Effect is one of the most reliable factors in politics (as ridiculous as I think that is). If people see that other people are voting for someone, they are at least slightly more likely to do so themselves.

I know that some people noticed. The first time I had occasion during the campaign to meet with Democratic Party Chairman Trav Robertson, I mentioned something about my bumper stickers, and he said, “Yeah, I’ve heard about that.” And I thought, Yeah, I’ll bet you have. I knew by that time that there were some Democrats who didn’t like that James had hired someone like me, and it wasn’t surprising that some of them would have brought such a detail to Trav’s attention.

But again, Democrats weren’t my target audience. I was trolling for persuadable Republicans. (And yes, that’s a thing. Here’s one of our Republican endorsements, and a video to go with it.)

Anyway, now I have to figure out where to put my Biden sticker. My first thought is to put it right in the middle, but then my tailgate will be 2/3 Democratic. Which is not the effect I’m going for. But then, does that matter, since Joe is running in the Democratic Primary? I mean, what do I care what Republicans think in this context? Worrying about being perfectly bipartisan is more about worrying about what people think of ME, isn’t it? And that shouldn’t be a factor.

I could put it over the Smith sticker, since the campaign’s over and all, but I won’t do that. My experience last year is something I’m proud of, and I’m going to continue to wear it on my sleeve. Or tailgate.

Anyway, look how shiny and new it still is. It looks good. By contrast, Micah’s sticker has faded considerably.

Of course, being focused on the Democratic primary, I could just cover Micah’s sticker until after Feb. 9. But I’m not going to do that. I don’t want to abandon my representative, even for a short while. He’s got re-election next year.

So… I’m thinking the Biden sticker needs to go in the middle. And I need to get with Micah to get a fresher sticker sometime between now and next spring…

Let’s celebrate a belated win for solar energy and SC

The unanimous vote in the House on Thursday.

The unanimous vote in the House on Thursday.

And may I add, it’s a win for my erstwhile boss James Smith, even if he’s no longer in the Legislature to share in the celebration.

Last year, James’ bill to lift the cap on solar energy in our state was cruising to victory before the big utilities got the rules changed at the last minute. It was a stunning exhibition of “your oligarchy at work,” as one State House sage described it long ago. Check out my report on that, headlined, “In stunning reversal for people of SC, utilities manage to kill solar bill AFTER it passed overwhelmingly.”

Here’s Sammy’s story on what happened. An excerpt:

As the legislative session ended this week, South Carolina lawmakers approved a sweeping solar energy bill that will keep the state’s rooftop solar industry from collapsing and protect customers who seek to save money by installing sun panels on their homes.

The bill, the result of two years of negotiation between utilities and solar advocates, now needs only Gov. Henry McMaster’s signature to become law. McMaster spokesman Brian Symmes said the governor will sign the bill. The Senate voted for the bill Wednesday and the House approved it Thursday, the final day of the legislative session.

“We had a good deliberative process on some pretty groundbreaking clean energy legislation,’’ said Rebecca Haynes, deputy director of the Conservation Voters of South Carolina. “This saves the rooftop solar industry.’’

This week’s action is significant because it lifts restrictions that threatened to grind the state’s burgeoning rooftop solar industry to a halt. State law capped the amount of rooftop solar allowed in areas served by Dominion Energy and Duke Energy in South Carolina.

The Legislature’s action eliminates those caps, as well as restrictions on solar-leasing programs….

Well it’s about time. Congrats to Peter McCoy and everyone who supported it. Which was, um, everybody…

I keep having these campaign flashbacks

now

Yesterday, I was in Rock Hill on a video shoot for a client of ADCO.

When we had some time to break for lunch, Brian and I asked about where we might go eat where yours truly could find something I’m not allergic to. My best way of describing that sort of venue is “a meat and two veg place” — as opposed to a pizza place or a sandwich place, which have nothing on their menus for me. Basically, I need to go to a place that serves food like Mama used to make.

So we were sent to an old-school, down-home joint in an unremarkable strip shopping center.  It seemed that Fate was against our ever getting there, as Google Maps steered us completely wrong for awhile.

But Fate was just messing with us, just putting off the big reveal.

Earlier in the day, as we were pulling into town, I had thought to myself, “I know I was here during the campaign, but when, and what sort of event was it?” I couldn’t remember.

Now at lunchtime, as we finally turned into the shopping center parking lot and rolled past the Earth Fare that is sort of the anchor tenant, the lights came on and I said, “Oh. I know where we are.”

After we ordered our food (for me, a hamburger steak with fries and some speckled butter beans — with me, the plainer the fare the better), I stepped into the private meeting room toward the back and took the above picture.

Then I sent it to James and Mandy along with the picture below, saying, “Having lunch at The Little Cafe in Rock Hill, and having flashbacks.”

The below picture was taken at 9:22 a.m. on Oct. 31, the second day of the Saga of the “Bus,” the “Leave No One Behind Tour.”

We zipped in and out of these places so fast that they’re hard to recall now — until Fate decides to mess with me, dropping me into a place apparently at random and then saying, “Remember this?”

then

The new Henry McMaster (we can only hope)

henry

I’ve been meaning to write about this, but when it was timely — on Inauguration Day, and when we had the State of the State — I was too busy to blog, and let it slide.

But now I’m thinking about it again, so…

A number of times lately, I’ve thought, Hey, at least one voter out there was listening to us during the campaign: Henry McMaster.

At least it seems that way. Everywhere we went, James and Mandy touted their plan to raise teacher pay and take other measures to make all our schools places where kids were well educated and teachers loved their jobs and didn’t want to quit. And James had a crowd-pleasing line he used with regard to his opponent that went kind of like this: The only thing Henry McMaster has offered our schools is to arm teachers with guns. I want to arm them with better pay, and with the tools they need to be effective.

The line worked, because Henry offered nothing to counter it. He didn’t talk about schools. Any reasonable person could be forgiven for assuming that he didn’t give a flying flip about schools.

Now, he’s all on fire for education reform. Which is why, after the State of the State, Mandy Powers Norrell tweeted this:

It’s great. It’s gratifying. But don’t think I think we deserve the credit (and I don’t think Mandy does, either). I don’t flatter myself that Henry is taking his cues from the Smith campaign. I do think he’s taking them from House Speaker Jay Lucas. And that’s a good thing.

(Oops, I forgot to use The State newspaper’s recent style. On first reference, and sometimes even in headlines, it’s always “powerful House Speaker Jay Lucas.” It’s become such a part of his title, I expect them to start capitalizing the “P” next. Back in the old mainframe days when we were on Atex terminals, we would have said, “they’ve got it on a SAVE/GET key…”)

Lucas has been wanting to get serious on helping our schools for several years now. Even though the Supreme Court has backed off on forcing the Legislature to provide all the state’s students with a better-than-minimally adequate education, Lucas really wants to do something about it.

And he’s willing to let Henry get in front of the parade and take credit for it.

And to his credit, Henry for once is acting like a leader and stepping out to do something, to lead, to be a governor.

His first two years in office, we saw no sign of that. In fact, when Lucas and others in the State House tried to lead, Henry lay down in front of their efforts. He only cared about the upcoming election. It was painfully evident that, on a twist of another of James’ campaign lines, Henry would rather keep the job than do the job.

The way he tried to block leadership on the roads bill was the perfect example. Rather than support the lawmakers in the risk they were taking, he vetoed the bill, and neither tried to offer a viable argument why nor made any effort to get lawmakers to sustain the veto. He knew they would override him. He just wanted zero responsibility for what happened. (Which reminds me of a postwar German phrase: Ohne mich. They could do what they liked, but without him.)

Now that he’s been elected governor for the first time, he seems to have decided he’s going to act like one. For a change.

I worked so hard to get James Smith elected mostly because of my tremendous respect for him, personally. I’d have been for James even if Henry had been a fairly decent governor. But I worked even harder for him because Henry gave no sign of being any kind of governor at all, decent or otherwise. It was an extra spur to my efforts.

And when we lost, we had little reason to hope for anything better going forward.

Which is why it’s so encouraging to see Henry accepting the mantle of leadership that the Speaker has offered him. It’s not as good as having James as governor, not by a long shot, but it’s something.

I applaud this unexpected development. And I’m daring to hope that something good will come out of it. After all, Dum Spiro Spero

Here you go, Doug…

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I initially used this image when I posted our medical cannabis release on the campaign website. James communicated to me that it wasn’t quite the look he wanted to go with so, ya know, I took it down…

How did we win over Doug Ross back during the campaign (however briefly)? Well, I imagine a number of things went into it, but one think I know played a role was our stance on medical cannabis.

James won’t be around to get ‘er done, but I’m sure Doug will be encouraged by this release yesterday from Tom Davis, the most libertarian member of the Legislature:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

CONTACT:

State Sen. Tom Davis

tdavis@harveyandbattey.com

State Rep. Peter McCoy

peter@mccoyandstokes.com

COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina State Sen. Tom Davis and Rep. Peter McCoy released the following statement regarding their intent to file tomorrow, on Tuesday, January 15, 2019, a bill titled the “South Carolina Compassionate Care Act,” in order to legalize in South Carolina the use of cannabis by patients for certain specific medical conditions, subject to a physician’s authorization and supervision, and to legalize in this state, subject to regulation and oversight by DHEC and SLED, the cultivation, processing and dispensing of cannabis for such medical use:

“For the past several months, we have worked with law enforcement, health professionals, grassroots advocates, and other individuals and organizations to draft the most strictly regulated and tightly supervised medical-cannabis program in the country.  Poll after poll on this issue confirms what we consistently hear from our constituents – that the overwhelming majority of South Carolinians do want physicians to have the legal ability to authorize the use of cannabis by their patients if those physicians believe it would be of medicinal benefit, but that they do not want to legalize the use of cannabis for recreational purposes.

“Our objective in drafting this bill has been to provide for a medical-cannabis program that reflects South Carolinians’ views on the matter – that is, to draw a bright line between medical and recreational use.  We believe the South Carolina Compassionate Care Act, a copy of which is attached, does that.  The summary of the act, also attached, breaks down in detail the safeguards put in place to ensure that a medical-cannabis program does not morph into a recreational one.  In developing these safeguards, we have looked at what has worked and what hasn’t in the 33 states that have already legalized cannabis for medical purposes.

“We acknowledge that the medical-cannabis program we propose is much stricter than the others; that is intentional.  From the tightly defined list of qualifying medical conditions to the level of detail required in the written certifications by the authorizing physicians, from the prohibition against smoking cannabis to the imposition of felony penalties for the diversion of medical cannabis for recreational use, and from the mandatory use of seed-to-sale tracking systems to the testing of medical cannabis by independent testing laboratories, we believe the South Carolina Compassionate Care Act draws the bright line between medical and recreational use of cannabis that the overwhelming majority of South Carolinians want.

We will have a press  conference at the State House in Columbia at 4 p.m. tomorrow, Tuesday, January 14, 2018, to review the provisions of the South Carolina Compassionate Care Act in detail and to answer questions about that act.”

###

Tom notes that polls show a supermajority of South Carolinians favor the change. Well, he’d better get a supermajority of votes in the General Assembly, because the guy who won the governor’s race doesn’t hold with it.

If we’d won, he wouldn’t have that problem.

Reactivated for campaign duty, for one brief moment…

Q4

I was eating breakfast last Thursday, minding my own business, when the call came from Tom Barton of The State.

He said he thought maybe today was the day for campaign finance reports for Q4, and wondered when we might have our report ready.

I didn’t say “What?,” or “Why are you asking me?” or “Take a flying leap!” After all, whom else was he going to ask? So I shifted immediately back into campaign mode, and gave him the response I probably used the most during those four months: I told him I didn’t have the slightest idea, but I’d check and get back to him.

I soon learned that the deadline was today, although there was a five-day grace period, and that a couple of folks who had handled finance for the campaign were working on completing it.

This led to a flurry of multilateral communications via text that lasted all day and into the night. I just went back and counted: There were 64 of them, involving a total of seven people. Although the main communications involved one of the finance folks, James and Mandy and me. And James didn’t weigh in until the rest of us had things sorted out — which was smart.

In other words, it was just like being back on the trail, except more restful because we were only dealing with this one simple thing, instead of 10 or 20 things that made us want to tear our hair out.

The short version is that one of those texts gave me the figures I needed, I wrote a release, James and Mandy approved it, and after holding it for a couple of hours to see whether we wanted to react to anything in Henry’s report when they filed it (we didn’t), I dug up my campaign media address lists and sent it out to 200 and something media types, at 10:28 p.m.

But first, I texted Tom to tell him it was coming, since he was the one person who had asked.

I haven’t seen any reports on the filing, which is not surprising, because it’s not that interesting. (Perhaps I even DID see such a headline, and My Eyes Glazed Over.) But we did what was required.

It was kind of nice and sort of poignant to be working with everybody again, although on such a low-key level.

That’s probably my last release for the campaign, but who knows? I wasn’t expecting that one…

The young folks just love hearing Sen. Land talk about ‘likkah’

James speaking at the event John Land hosted for us in Manning.

James speaking at the event John Land hosted for us in Manning.

On the first day of the Leave No One Behind Tour, we had two reporters and a photographer on the bus with us.

One was Maayan Schechter of The State. Maayan wasn’t at the paper when John Land was in the Senate, but she knew his rep. And when we stopped in Manning for an event the senator had set up for us, she couldn’t resist asking him to talk about “liquor.”

She has not ceased being delighted by his willing response, as I learned when a “like” by Mandy Powers Norrell drew me to this Tweet, featuring video shot that day:

If you want to know more about the senator and likkah, you might want to watch this clip from several years back:

That, of course, was a tribute to this famous bit from Mississippi politician Noah S. “Soggy” Sweat, Jr. in 1952.

Sen. Land is a South Carolina treasure.

By the way, at one point another campaign aide and I had the same idea independently of each other, proving the old saw about great minds: We both thought it would be wonderful to get Land to play Henry in debate prep. Not just because of the accent, but because Land is so sharp that he’d really have given James a workout. We didn’t follow through on it, though. A shame. I’d love to have video of that. Imagine Land saying, “Ah like it, ah love it, ah want some mo’ OF it!

On the bus that same day. That's Maayan sitting next to the photog over on the right.

On the bus that same day. That’s Maayan sitting next to the photog over on the right.

Hey, guys! A frozen moment from the campaign…

cropped-backstage-florence

Don’t know if you’ve seen the above image, one of the headers I recently added to the randomized rotation.

It wouldn’t mean a thing to you, but it made me smile when I saw it pop up just now.

There you have four of the main political operatives of the Smith/Norrell campaign, at a tense moment: They’re watching the first debate, in Florence on Oct. 17. We’re in our green room backstage. There’s nothing they can do at this point but watch and listen intently. There they are:

  • Phil Chambers, the bright young guy we had stolen away from the state party about halfway through my time on the campaign — he had set up all the logistics for the debate, to the smallest detail. (He’s the guy who, a week after the election, was out west working toward 2020.)
  • Kendall Corley, our political director. He and I shared an office at headquarters, but he wasn’t there all that much — mainly out in the field — and when he was in the office he spent all his time making phone calls or poring over maps, talking about how to deploy resources. But right now, he could do nothing.
  • Scott Harriford, deputy political director and James’ “body man” — the driver, the guy who experienced everything James did, going everywhere he went, taking care of details, shooting photos and video and texting them back to me. The first campaign staffer hired, he’d been doing all that since June 2017. But right now he could only watch.
  • Scott Hogan, the campaign manager, a guy I learned a lot from. He joined the campaign almost a month after I did. He was the pro from Dover, and I didn’t know how he’d react to a nonprofessional like me, but we ended up having a great working relationship. Don’t know what he’s worrying about there, maybe one of my Tweets.

I’m at the center of the room, between them and the TV monitor. I’m the one guy with something to do at this moment, with far too much to do, cranking out dozens of Tweets and making adjustments to the press release that I’ll put out within a minute or two of the debate’s end, working simultaneously with laptop, iPad and phone. I’m as busy as Butch and Sundance in that last scene where they’re shooting it out with the Bolivian Army.

But still, I take a moment to stand up in front of my table (you can see it in the uncropped version below) and look back at my comrades arrayed behind me, and feeling the need to record the moment, snap a quick exposure before sitting back down to my work and resuming the furious typing.

And the picture makes me smile now. Don’t know why. Maybe because things are going so well at that moment. James is clearly winning the debate, but there’s still that tension because there are 13 minutes left in the debate (photo taken at 7:47), and Something Can Always Go Wrong.

Maybe it makes me feel like Faulkner’s 14-year-old Southern boy, and we’re in the moments before Pickett’s Charge, and It’s Still Possible to Win, despite the odds.

And maybe I miss the intensity, the exhaustion tempered by the sense of mission, the excitement of this one-time experience, the feeling of doing all we can and leaving it on the field.

I don’t know. But while it’s no great masterpiece of photographic composition, it made me smile…

uncropped Florence green room

One of my favorite moments from the campaign

IMG_0521

While I’m sharing photos of James enjoying the campaign trail, I need to show you this sequence, which never went out on social media, but which was a favorite moment of mine.

This was at the Joe Biden fundraiser. This was after all the speaking, when the candidates and Joe were just meeting and greeting and posing for selfies and such.

A lot of politicians kiss babies. But I’ve never seen one get more of a kick out of a baby than this. And it didn’t seem to bother him that this baby was campaigning for someone else…

 

A guy who really enjoys some retail politics

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On a previous post, I said something about James Smith liking the retail politicking way better than the unfun stuff like making fundraising calls. Which of course makes him, well, human.

Someone said he didn’t seem that way at the Gallivants Ferry Stump meeting last spring, that he seemed kind of standoffish there.

Well… I can’t speak for the primary campaign. But during the general, when I was working for him, what I saw was a guy who really dug meeting people. In support of that, I’ll just share a very few of the pictures I pumped out, a couple of dozen a day, on social media.

When it came to interacting with regular folks, I can only think of one guy who might enjoy it more than James, and that’s his longtime political mentor, in the front row of this picture I took on Oct. 13:

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Wait! Isn’t that one of my campaign tweets?

One of the many occasions on which we spoke out about this very thing...

One of the many occasions on which we spoke out about this very thing…

Just saw this, which gave me flashbacks:

Man, how many times in the last few months did I say or type — in Tweets, on Facebook, in press releases, in statements to reporters — some variation of “Some of the best jobs in South Carolina are threatened by the tariffs that Henry McMaster refuses to take a stand against?”

More times than I care to remember…

Not gonna say we told you so… not gonna say we told you so…

Evidently, I was misreading the signs (or lack of them)…

In a comment on a previous post, Scout was talking about how James Smith did better than Democrats usually do in her Lexington County precinct. She went on to say:

James got significantly more votes than Sheheen did against Haley the first time around in actual vote numbers (not percentages), but the turnout was just bigger all around, so it still wasn’t enough.

Clearly James got more democratic votes than typically happens around here. But again, It just still wasn’t enough…

That got me to thinking about this: Statewide, James not only got a lot more votes than Democrats usually do; he got way more votes than Republicans usually do. Consider:

  • In 2006, Mark Sanford won with 601,868 votes.
  • In 2010, Nikki Haley won with 690,525 votes.
  • In 2014, Nikki won even bigger with 696,645 votes.
  • In 2018, James got 784,182 votes — and lost.

It’s sort of a cliche that big turnout favors Democrats. Not this time.

One explanation I’ve heard is that the S.C. population is growing rapidly — and that a lot of the newcomers are people who don’t know squat about either Henry or James, but brought the habit of voting Republican along with them when they came here.

But obviously that’s not the whole answer. A lot of other factors were at work here.

For us on the Smith campaign, that outcome is counterintuitive. The lack of enthusiasm for Henry even among Republicans was palpable throughout this campaign. He barely squeaked by in a runoff in his own party’s primary, and was particularly weak in the Upstate — which is one reason why James did about 20 percentage points better than Vincent Sheheen had done in Greenville.

All over the state, we could see that almost no one wanted a McMaster sign in his front yard. My brother, who lives in a Republican neighborhood in Greenville, kept sending me pictures of Smith/Norrell signs next to signs for Republicans running for other offices. I thought maybe he was just noticing the things he wanted to see, but when I spent the day up there before the second debate and drove around looking, I saw the same thing — Smith signs everywhere, McMaster signs almost nonexistent. (And I’m not the kind of guy who fools himself into seeing only what pleases him. I’m hypercritical — always looking for the things that are WRONG — and attach great importance to bad news. Every McMaster sign I saw during the campaign was like a kick in the gut. But during all those months, I got very few kicks in the gut.)

It would be foolish to go by yard signs alone in trying to predict an outcome (so you can save your breath telling me that), but the McMaster sign deficit was so HUGE that I kept thinking it was a ruse of some sort. Maybe the McMaster campaign was deliberately holding the signs back, and they’d all go up in the last few days before Election Day to give him and his supporters a psychological boost, and discourage our voters. Or something. The lack of red signs was just weird.

(One day shortly after joined the campaign in July, I drove past the McMaster headquarters on Gadsden Street behind the governor’s mansion. The yard was full of signs, and I thought, so that’s where they all are! I almost did a blog post about it, but decided it would be unseemly given my role in the campaign. Anyway, I figured that sooner or later, I’d start seeing them scattered across the state in great profusion, and then I’d regret having made fun. But it never happened…)

Obviously, it seemed to us, we had the enthusiasm advantage. We weren’t counting our chickens or anything, because we knew the odds were always against a Democrat. But we had some things to feel good about. And the reason I’m talking about the sign thing, as insignificant as it it, is that it was something tangible I can point out to you.

It stood to reason that McMaster would get the votes of people who always voted Republican, but from what we could see, that was about it — and he wouldn’t get all of those (we were seeing and hearing a lot of indicators on that point). So how is it that there was both a big turnout, apparently with lots of people who had never voted for governor in previous years, and Henry still won?

It’s impossible to know for sure, but we can speculate…

I took this photo on July 12. I thought, "So THAT'S where all the McMaster signs are -- at his headquarters!"

I took this photo on July 12. I thought, “So THAT’S where all the McMaster signs are — at his headquarters!”

I was left behind by the Leave No One Behind bus

The only photo from the bus that shows me. Probably taken by Mandy. I appear to be engaged in some sort of incantation, probably pumping out a press release or a Tweet. In the background you see Jamie Lovegrove of the Post and Courier, so this was probably the first day on the bus.

The only photo from the bus that shows me, since I was usually shooting the pics. Probably taken by Mandy. I appear to be engaged in some sort of incantation, probably pumping out a press release or a Tweet. In the background you see Jamie Lovegrove of the Post and Courier, so I’m guessing this was the first day on the bus, when I was still relatively sane.

Ken Kesey had one rule for the Merry Pranksters in their acid-fueled magical mystery tour across America in Furthur, the ultimate, aboriginal psychedelic bus: You’re either on the bus or you’re off the bus. As you may recall, I’ve used a variant of that as a tagline for this blog in the past.

With Kesey, it was both a practical admonition — if you’re not on the bus when we’re ready to go, we’ll leave you — and a sort of cosmic statement of connectedness, as he elaborated:

There are going to be times when we can’t wait for somebody. Now, you’re either on the bus or off the bus. If you’re on the bus, and you get left behind, then you’ll find it again. If you’re off the bus in the first place — then it won’t make a damn.

I spent the last week of the gubernatorial campaign on a borrowed RV — which we referred to often as not as “the bus” — that was decorated not with wild psychedelic swirls but with images of the candidates and gigantic representations of our bumper stickers and our tagline, “Leave No One Behind.” In a series of texts with the campaign manager at about 6 a.m. on our first day with the bus, I suggested we call it the “Leave No One Behind Tour,” and that’s what we did.

It was an intense experience. The whole campaign, of course, was an intense experience, unlike anything I’d ever been through, even in my newspaper days. The involvement, and the demand on my physical and mental stamina, was rather overwhelming. For the first month, I didn’t know if I’d make it. Then, I sort of started getting used to it. And then, the pace stepped up, and increased more and more until the end, but my body and nerves kept adjusting. A typical day would involve cranking out my first release by about 6:30 a.m. and continuing at a dizzying speed until fairly late at night — but that doesn’t really fully express it. At first, things would be a bit slower on weekends, but by the end, they were not — a Sunday became like a Wednesday, without end.

But those last days on the bus exceeded anything that went before. And as often as not, I was the only staffer on board for the whole day and into the night with James and Mandy. But as amazed as I am that I made it through, this was only a brief taste of what James, and later Mandy, had been enduring for the past year. For them, and for usual driver Scott Harriford — the first staffer hired way back in the summer of 2017 — the RV was probably more like a vacation.

But they’re all three a lot younger than I am.

Scott Harriford, who had been The Driver for the last year-and-a-half, actually got some snooze time on the bus tour.

Scott Harriford, who had been The Driver for the last year-and-a-half, actually got some snooze time on the bus tour.

The incident I want to tell about happened the morning of Saturday, Nov. 3. But I’ll start with the day before.

We had a slow start on Friday, not rolling out from headquarters until about 8 a.m. I think that morning I even had a chance to run get breakfast at Cap City between pushing out the morning release and boarding the RV. Our first destination was a meeting with officials at Greenville Health System to talk about Medicaid expansion and other healthcare issues. Just one of many, many encouraging meetings J and M had had in the Upstate in recent months with folks some of y’all might expect to support Republicans. But you didn’t read about it because it was private and therefore I didn’t pump out social media about it. I just sat against the wall of the conference room and sort of half-listened, enjoying the break.

Then, it was off to Buffalo Wild Wings in the same city for a lunch meeting that Patrick Elswick (here’s video of Patrick) had set up with some veterans. Here’s social media about that. It was during that lunch that we learned Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson had given to the campaign, and I Tweeted about that, too.

At Buffalo Wild Wings with the veterans.

At Buffalo Wild Wings with the veterans.

At Wild Wings, I think, was where Campaign Manager Scott Hogan joined us. There had been certain… glitches… the day before, which we had blamed on inadequate advance work, and Phil Chambers had drafted a new schedule for advancing every single stop for the rest of the tour, and Scott had joined us to, among other things, see how that was working.

Next stop was an elementary school in Simpsonville. Since it was a public school, we couldn’t park in front of it, so we parked at a park about a mile away, and someone — Phil or one of the Scotts — drove them over in a car. I was delayed getting off the bus, and they were gone by the time I descended into the rain. But then I got tied up with a couple of supporters who had been attracted by the bus, who wanted to help — with signs, or something — so I got their contact info and arranged with their county coordinator to get with them, and got back on the bus. I had to use pictures shot by Harriford for the school event Tweet. I was for a moment flummoxed as to how to post a picture without showing kids’ faces, and Mandy just took a pic and edited out the kids who were facing the camera. Duh. I was getting punchy by then.

Then, on to a literal town hall meeting at Gray Court Town Hall. By this time, various Upstate media were joining us and we started a series of brief interviews. Tim Waller of WYFF would do two or three live feeds during the next hour or two. The town hall went well. Then, on the way back to the bus, we stopped at an antique store where J and M made a fun purchase — a circa-1940s Erector Set, which included a working motor. They showed it off in a video that I Tweeted.

Tim Waller and crew rode back to Greenville on the bus.

Tim Waller and crew rode back to Greenville on the bus.

Waller and crew rode back to Greenville on the bus. Then, James and Mandy spent three hours at the Greenville NAACP Freedom Fund Dinner. I spent most of that time catching up on stuff on the bus. Phil and the two Scotts went off in search of food, and eventually brought German, the driver, and me some excellent takeout — flatiron steak with tiny potatoes and lightly cooked green beans. Way better than my usual McDonald’s.

Sometime after 10, J and M got away from the banquet and headed for an informal gathering with friends and supporters at a downtown Greenville joint, Ink N Ivy. My old colleague Jim Hammond, who had been a huge help to the campaign, was there, and we chatted for a few minutes. But then I heard Hogan and Phil were going to make a breakout, leave the bus behind and head to Columbia. Matt Gassan, who had advanced the event, told me they were at the corner with the engine running. Tired as I was, the flesh being weak, and knowing the bus was scheduled to leave HQ the next morning at 7, I decided to escape with them….

… and found myself, half an hour later, on a godforsaken, wind-and-rainswept vacant lot in some part of Greenville I’d never be able to find again, helping put up a couple of gigantic campaign signs that Hogan and Phil were determined we should not leave unused back at HQ. Sure, I agreed that we were all determined to leave it all on the field in this race, but somewhere about this time, I privately decided they were both lunatics. Eventually, we headed back, getting home sometime well after midnight. I forget when. I then set my alarm for 6 a.m.

It would be much later that I would figure out what had happened. The thing is, I set my usual weekday alarm for 6. It just never occurred to me that the next day was Saturday.

At 7:39 a.m. the buzzing of my phone finally woke me. Multiple texts had been missed, and Hogan was voice-calling me. The bus was, finally, rolling away from HQ without me. Major panic on my part to say the least.

Hauling my old Volvo down two-lane roads I managed to catch up to them in Greenwood, in time to get some pics and Tweet about that first event. I then drove ahead to the next event, at a restaurant in Spartanburg. Ginger Crocker caught a ride with Noah Barker, who was advancing the lunch event — so she could drive my car back to Columbia and I could rejoin the bus, which I did, and we continued on another long, long day.

Eventually, it occurred to Mandy what had happened to me...

Then it occurred to Mandy what had happened to me…

All that day, I was perfectly mortified. I knew just what had happened, and I had been thinking the very same words about it all day. But very late in the day or that night, I was sitting across the little table from the candidates talking over the day, when the words occurred to Mandy and she said them out loud: “You got left behind by the Leave No One Behind Bus!”

James thought this was high-larious! He roared his appreciation of the irony.

Me, I didn’t think it was so funny. I had let down the side, and was full of self-reproach. And I resolved yet again to do a better job tomorrow than I had today…

The first morning of that final tour. I was so intent on getting the bus in the frame I failed to notice J and M were in shadow. I did NOT Tweet this one...

The first morning of that final tour. I was so intent on getting the bus in the frame I failed to notice J and M were in shadow. I did NOT Tweet this one…

The last group picture

Last shot

Phillip and Kathryn have already remarked upon a version of this photo, on Facebook. Said Phillip:

Brad looking extra cool and laid-back there off to the side, showing the youngsters how it’s done.

This was on Saturday. It was the last time campaign staff were together in headquarters. We had cleaned the place out. Or rather, everybody else had cleaned the place out and I had helpfully watched them do it.

I was more helpful on Thursday, when we had dismantled and removed most of the furniture. I went through every sheet of paper in the random heap on my desk — actually, a bare-bones table from Ikea — and then dismantled the table, and left the pieces on the front porch where presumably someone was to pick them up. And did some other stuff, but mainly dealt with my own particularly chaotic space.

But when I got there Saturday, I was late, and everyone else seemed to have a task, and before I could get my bearings we were done, and posing for pictures. (The group you see above is more or less the core staff, with a volunteer or two. Some people who played a major role are missing, such as Phil Chambers.)

It wasn’t a total waste, though. Managing to look cool in the picture is in itself an accomplishment, right?

I’ll have more to say about the last few months, about what preceded the cleaning-out. But I’ll probably unpack it randomly, as a picture or a word or something in the news reminds me. My mind is still decompressing at the moment. All those months of intensity at an increasingly faster pace, culminating with those eight days and nights on the RV — it’s going to take time to process.

In the meantime, there’s the last picture. There will be more. I shot thousands… Below is one (that I did not shoot; this was done by a professional) showing some of the same people the day Joe Biden came to Charleston.

Between those two was the most intense part of the experience. The Biden thing seems in a way like yesterday, and in a way like 10 years ago…

Biden group shot