We caught up with CNN’s senior White House correspondent Ed Henry over the weekend after his trip with President Obama to Chicago. Here we learn what surprises, annoys and delights him on the road.
What’s the best thing about traveling with POTUS? I’m still hooked on the excitement of flying around the world with the President, seeing a new city each day, literally not knowing what comes next. I look out the window of the plane and snap pictures of cities on approach. I love the wonder of it all — flying over all of the mountain ranges aboard Air Force One on the West Coast swing last week. Who could tire of that?
The worst? We spend far too much time in old tour buses that take us from airports to campaign rally sites. Sitting too close to the bathroom — always a mistake.
What has surprised you? It was 70 degrees in Chicago in late October. The President joked that the national press shouldn’t get false impressions — it’s usually brutally cold. Today was beautifully mild, until the sun went down and then whoa. I was glad I was secure enough in my manhood to bring a blanket from the plane to campaign events in Philly and Chicago. Folks like Carol Lee of Politico laughed at my “binky” in Philly, but by the time we got here to Chicago I noticed she and a bunch of other reporters had blankets too to deal with the Windy City. I hate to say I told you so.
Find out which hip hop star Henry is posing with after the jump…
Most amusing moment so far: I met Common, the hip hop star, in Chicago and got teased by colleagues for taking a cheesy photo. (They’re just jealous). When Common was warming up the crowd before the President showed up, his music was blasting on the loud speakers. Sen. Dick Durbin told me that he has “all his albums.” He was kidding. I think.
What’s happening in Chicago? What’s not happening in Chicago? It’s a vibrant, fun city. I took a walk on Michigan Avenue and then State Street and it brought back great memories of covering the 2008 presidential transition. I like its unpretentiousness. When I was here a couple weeks back covering the First Lady’s first big campaign trip, I went to Gibson’s Steakhouse and noticed the sportscaster Joe Buck at the bar. They didn’t give him VIP treatment, but announced over the intercom, “Joe Buck, your table is ready.
What’s the energy of this trip like so close to Election Day? Is the President and aides at least emitting an air of optimism? The President is still very optimistic but we won’t know until Tuesday whether it’s for real or a game face. Everyone from the President on down is publicly projecting an upbeat tone, but in private, people close to this White House are realistic that they’re likely to lose the House. The most interesting nugget I picked up both today and on the big West Coast swing last week is that senior Democrats now think their Senate majority is teetering too.
What has annoyed you? I had to catch a 7: 45 a.m. flight to get back to D.C. I’d love to spend a lazy Sunday here.
Who is the best, most intriguing person you’ve met on this trip? Rena Koklar. She’s a Democratic campaign volunteer who, after a live shot, yelled through a chain link fence that she had to meet me because she had a surprise. I found out that she recently married my best friend from fourth grade, Joe Ferrante. Joe and I were in a school play together about an Italian holiday, “La Beffana.” Rena dialed her husband, and I started reciting the Italian lyrics. “La Beffana, viene de note ….” for like 60 seconds. Joe was saying, “Who is this?!” He was laughing his butt off. Small world. You truly never know whom you’ll meet on the trail.
What is your favorite clip from the trail? Hands down it’s co-anchoring Ballot Bowl from a cabana at the VIP pool at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas last Saturday, the day after the President’s rally with Sen. Harry Reid. First time I’ve gone from live shot to hot tub in less than five minutes followed by dinner at Raos, my favorite Italian restaurant.