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Ticket pool report: In the crowd with John McCain

July 16, 2008 |  7:32 am

Presidential campaigns are much like a complex traveling circus, with teams assigned to develop messages to voters, teams designed to scout appropriate sites for candidate visits, teams assigned to prepare them and teams assigned to accompany the candidate and ensure a smooth appearance, most notably with the traveling and local media whose experience is reflected in the tone and detail of the coverage they provide to millions.

Sometimes the campaign venues are too small to accommodate the large press pRepublican presidential nominee to be John McCain and wife Cindy greet voters at a campaign eventacks traveling on the campaign plane, whose numbers jockeying for position would spoil the desired "getting-to-know-you-feel" the campaign wants for the TV cameras.

So pool reporters are chosen by turn to represent print and broadcast media, assembled elsewhere, and share what they see and hear with their absent colleagues in detailed Pool Reports, sometimes several a day and sometimes with professional asides to their colleagues.

From time to time through November, The Ticket is going to publish these pool reports in their entirety to give readers an inside feel for the kinds of detail they may not always see in the formal news coverage and to peer inside the raw material that journalists use to compile their coverage. Sometimes, as last night, the pool reports include details of an unexpected encounter.

This morning's Pool Report is No. 4 from Tuesday evening with Sen. John McCain in St. Louis. It includes a humorous addition at the end:

McCain Pool Report #4

ST. LOUIS—Showing his intimate knowledge of the Show Me State’s culture, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) made a pilgrimage to one of its vaunted institutions Tuesday night: Ted Drewes Frozen Custard.

The local dessert stand, which was founded in 1929, made its reputation on its 'concretes' cups of frozen custard that are so thick the servers flip them upside down before they....

...hand them over to customers, just to prove that they won’t slip out. McCain chose to visit the original stand on historic Route 66; a second outpost exists downtown.

Dozens of custard buyers were milling about in front of Ted Drewes when McCain’s entourage -- several SUVs escorted by St. Louis county police cars -- pulled up out front. The presumptive GOP nominee, accompanied by former Maryland lieutenant governor Michael Steele, got a chocolate concrete with Heath Bars while Steele (who told the staff, 'Surprise me') got a strawberry concrete.

At one point McCain entered the store and went to the window to take an order. 'Got it?' he barked to the staff, smiling. 'Small chocolate chip concrete!'

'It’s an institution,' McCain said as he shook hands with the staff. 'Pleasure to see you.'

The senator then headed out to the parking lot, where he shook hands with several customers. Twenty-nine year old Betsy Reznick, who was holding her four-month old daughter in a sling, shook his hand and smiled before berating him for his war policy.

'Hi, I’d like you to bring our troops home now. Quickly,' Reznick told him.

'With honor and victory,' McCain replied, somewhat nonplussed, as he moved to shake another person’s hand.

'There are too many dying,' she said.

Reznick explained that she works as a communication manager for the St. Louis-based National Veterans for Peace office, an anti-war group, but did not stage her protest. 'We happened to be walking on the street and saw all the cars,' she said.

Shortly afterwards McCain got kid gloves treatment from Tom, Cathy and Sam Scott, who posed for a picture with him. Cathy Scott asked her two-year old son Sam, 'Can you say, ‘Hi Mr. McCain?’'

'Hi, Mr. McCain,' the boy dutifully repeated.

For the record, your pooler sampled both a concrete brownie (vanilla frozen custard mixed with brownie bits) and a chocolate milkshake, in the interest of producing a full report. Both were tasty. The brownie bits in the concrete were a touch sugary, but the milkshake was satisfyingly rich.

Juliet Eilperin, Washington Post

McCain Pool Report #4a

Correction: Though a McCain spokeswoman initially said McCain had a chocolate custard concrete with Heath Bars, a campaign aide later clarified it was a plain chocolate concrete.

Juliet Eilperin, Washington Post

--Andrew Malcolm

Photo credit: Jim Cole / Associated Press