Two-hundred and sixty-five miles and eight hours after leaving Des Moines, I got back from the McCain-Palin rally the airport in Cedar Rapids, Iowa absolutely pumped about the campaign!
I left with a couple of friends (Andrew and Michael) at 5:30 AM. After a stop for breakfast, we arrived at the shuttle parking area at around 7:45 AM. The ride to the airport was quick and we stood in line for about 45 minutes or so before getting to the security check-point. Where they did the most thorough search I have ever seen on a backpack, even when I’ve been through the “special” line at the airport. They even found the knife I lost a couple of weeks ago (and now I’ve lost for good… oh well). Also, getting tickets ahead of time was not necessary… they were being handed out at the gate. However, I’m pretty sure the tickets are to help ensure people come after they’ve decided to come. 
Once we got to the hanger, they had a very controlled process to bring in each row of the standing-room-only crowd. We, having been early enough, managed to get into the third row on the end of stage-right (that would be the speaker’s right). Perfect spot, no tall people in front of me, fifty feet from the podium. And we were all given “Country First” signs and later on they passed out small (3″ X 5″) flags. And no, I didn’t see any on the rally floor afterward.
9:00. We’ve been in the hanger for about 20 minutes now. Candidates have not arrived yet, and I don’t find out until later today that the scheduled time for their arrival was 10:00. So far, the crowd is pretty friendly and excited. Secret Service are doing a great job. They are expecting 5,000 people, of which only about 2,000 will fit inside the hanger.
9:40. We’re being entertained by Chris Miller. He’s playing acoustic guitar with loops, providing 70’s covers.
9:53. Looks like the plane just touched down. Got a big whoop from the crowd.
10:00. The event starts. Pledge, music, speeches by local officials, Star Spangled Banner, more speeches.
10:50. Apparently that wasn’t their plane. Other speeches all done and now we’re waiting. Dave Roederer, McCain’s Iowa Campaign Director, is keeping the crowd at bay with chanting exercises (not very effective… people are getting surly).
11:05. The candidates finally showed up. The crowd goes wild. Lots of “We want sarah” chanting.
Sarah speaks first. By now you probably know she called Cedar Rapids: Grand Rapids. I’ve never known a politician that got every city name correct, and the folks at the rally seemed like normal Iowans: we cut people slack on stuff like that. She also makes a nice connection to the Five Seasons theme in Cedar Rapids.
I can’t hear much because of a group of people (protestors?) who just want chant over her speech. Sarah says the VP will have new roles in McCain’s administration (we’ve heard that before), including “energy czar” (a title given to a series of men through Nixon, Ford and Carter’s administrations). I notice John Deeth  as surprised by this as I am. We will have to keep an eye on that.
Palin covers her standard stump speech. Reform. Government accountability. Money for Children with special needs. Chanting starts “We want John”. Sarah finished up and then introduces McCain.
11:20. John speaks. Points out the blue star parents (parents of members of the Military). Goes into stump speech. He can’t wait to introduce Sarah to DC. Country first, change is coming. Times are tough and we need to deal with Wall Street. Talks about his attempts to fix Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the past.
John mentions Jim Johnson (former Fannie Mae CEO 1991-98) on BOs team (headed up VP search), which I heard about earlier this week from a friend. McCain says that this is the guy that caused the mess we’re in, and I am not yet knowledgable enough to support or refute the statements, but it seems untenable since he’s been out for ten years. And furthermore, Johnson was dropped from the team in June after other personal ethics issues were raised, so I don’t know.
McCain says that, due to the state of affairs on Wall Street, the SEC chief should be fired. I would support that, assuming it can be shown that negligence on his part contributed to the crisis at hand.
According to McCain, Obama is still under the control of party leadership. That’s a little easier for me to swallow than the Jim Johnson line.
On Biden’s quote on raising taxes: raising taxes is just plain dumb.
More protestors … Oops, now they’re being escorted out. McCain says that the American people want us to stop yelling at each other, and then invites the protesters to come to a town meeting, as should Obama.
That pretty much wrapped up the speeches. McCain starts working the crowd with handshakes (there is a barrier separating the crowd from McCain, so he doesn’t get squished, and I get about 6 feet from him without a handshake. Not a problem. Palin is schmoozing with all of the party officials, office holders and candidates on the stage.
Throughout the speeches, the crowd was definitely excited and into the content. Very celebratory and supportive.
Notably missing: Chuch Grassly and Kim Schmett. I don’t know why, but probably schedule conflicts.
We hung around for a while hoping to get a chance at shaking hands with Palin, but as the crowd thinned, it became clear that the candidates had been whisked away for the tour of flood damaged areas.
As we approached the shuttle buses, it looks like we’ll have a bit of a wait with the crowd in place. We then decided it would be just as easy to walk (mind you, we’ve been on our feed for four hours). Especially since there are about 20 other people that we see heading out to walk. It’s only about two and a half to three miles.
Took about an hour. And I now have blisters.
While we were walking, the motorcade came back in the opposite direction.
Got to the field where my car is sitting. Bought a t-shirt.
Now if anyone asks if I’ve been to a political rally, it’s: “Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt”.
I got home to West Des Moines around 3:30 PM. Long day.
My camera lost battery power as McCain was starting his speech, so I only have a couple of shots of him. One of my friends took a bunch of pictures which I’ll provide when I get them from him. Otherwise, here’s some of mine…