Tuesday, October 12, 2004

THE POLITICAL CIRCUS COMES TO TOWN

As published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
Oct. 12, 2004


Dozens of people gathered at the Plaza gazebo Monday holding umbrellas in the drizzling rain as CNN's Inside Politics telecast live from Santa Fe.

But the most heard question among the onlookers wasn't concerned about the topics host Judy Woodruff was talking about. Instead, Santa Feans wanted to know, "Is Kerry supposed to speak here?"

Many were disappointed when they learned the answer.

Indeed, Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry was in the neighborhood, just a couple of blocks away. He was holed up at the Inn at Loretto, preparing for Wednesday's debate with President Bush.

Members of the Santa Fe Police Department SWAT team, who are responsible for protecting visiting dignitaries, were stationed visibly on the first floor of the hotel. The lobby had heavy traffic by members of the national press who are following Kerry. Dozens of these were filing stories from laptop computers in the Chaco Room in the basement level of the Inn.

Kerry went to the hotel immediately after his speech at Sweeney Center and didn't emerge all day, campaign spokesman Ruben Pulido said.

"He stuck to just working," Pulido said. "He had breakfast from room service. For lunch they picked up food for him at The Shed. He ate enchiladas verde and green chile stew."

With Kerry were members of his domestic policy team including economic adviser Gene Sperling as well as campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill, Pulido said.

Greg Craig, a former Clinton administration lawyer, is in Santa Fe to portray Bush in practice debates, Pulido said. Bob Shrum, a Kerry campaign strategist, is portraying the Tempe, Ariz. debate moderator, CBS newsman Bob Schieffer.

Two CNN programs - Inside Politics and 360° with Anderson Cooper - were telecast live from the Plaza Monday. CNN's American Morning with Soledad O'Brien and Bill Hemmer will be there today beginning at 5 a.m.

Santa Fe is just one of the stops for CNN, which is being telecast from various cities in battleground states.

But though the news network wanted to show some local color, CNN initially wanted to park its Election Express bus directly behind the gazebo, which would have completely blocked the view of the Palace of the Governors, a state Tourism Department official said.

State tourism marketing director Jon Hendry told a reporter that he tried to convince CNN officials to allow a full view of the Palace, the oldest public building in the U.S. Hendry said a compromise was reached in which the bus would only block about half of the view of the Palace.

In front of the bus, on the Plaza sidewalk were bales of hay topped by large pumpkins. Hendry denied he was responsible for these props.

When Kerry spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter took the stage, Woodruff told her - off camera, "Welcome to cold, wet New Mexico." She told Cutter that she hadn't planned on Monday's rain. Woodruff's legs were covered in a Indian-style blanket, Woodruff said was bought just before the show to keep her warm. "Sorry I don't have one for you," she said.

During Woodruff's show, some Kerry supporters tried to get behind the gazebo to show their campaign signs.

Patricia Anderson, who sells jewelry beneath the Palace portal, said she tried to show her sign that read "Native Americans for Kerry-Edwards, Catch the Dream" on camera. But Anderson said she was stopped several times by private security guards. Instead Anderson stood with a group of about a half dozen people holding their signs across Palace Avenue from the Plaza. They could be seen from a distance on television.

When Cooper's show came on later Monday, CNN apparently relented. A large and enthusiastic group of Kerry supporters waved their signs every time Cooper was on camera.

{For coverage of John Kerry's speech CLICK HERE}


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