Big night for Newt Gingrich, as voters in South Carolina (who have correctly chosen the eventual GOP nominee since 1980) picked him by a large margin. The win has upended and extended this race, making for some fun new drama and unpredictability. He’s certainly a force of nature, the kind that gets me backin’ into walls.
SPARTANBURG, S.C. — Dropped in on the campaign trail real quick to get some video of my former governor, Rick Perry, in my 2004-2006 stomping grounds, Spartanburg. This is the same place where my friend Latoya and I met at Denny’s nearly every Friday night for dinner because we didn’t have much else to do. (Or anywhere else to eat.) And the same place that a guy killed his girlfriend by throwing a hot iron at her head and telling the police that all the blood on the carpet was actually an explosion of condiments like hot sauce and ketchup.
There’s no paper or computer here — J.C. takes your order, then hollers instructions to cooks in The Beacon’s unique lingo. For instance, a chili-cheeseburger a-plenty means your plate is going to be covered with french fries and onion rings.
The place goes through 300 pounds of chili on a Friday night. Just the kind of crowd a campaign is looking for.
“If you want to be elected for president, you better come to The Beacon,” Stroble says with a chuckle.
It goes without question that all the food here is predictably greasy — cheeseburgers, onion rings, chili cheese. The Texas governor ordered something which I believe was the go-to order, Chili Cheese A Plenty (double or single patty available). But he gave it a name of his own:
Over the weekend, Photographer Brad and I made a quick trip to Des Moines to drop in on the presidential campaign trail, where six of the eight GOP candidates took part in a social issue-themed roundtable discussion while seated behind a gigantic cornucopia. Other observations:
Christmas is really around the corner. At the county GOP event in the morning, where Ron Paul was the featured speaker, there were lots of ill-fitting holiday sweaters and sweatshirts. The expected number of American flag-themed polo shirts turned up, also.
How about that cornucopia, people. Tell me it is not distracting. I have no idea what happened during some of the forum because I was so fascinated with that thing. A sample of the tweets and comments I got about it:
What’s with the “horn of plenty” in front that looks like the trash heap from Fraggle Rock?
From here, it looks like a homeless person sleeping.
On the floor, is it a body in burlap??, a conservative conceptual yule log?
The horn-of-plenty was not just a draw for me and Brad. Rhonda and Kent, a couple from Des Moines wearing these matching Christmas colored flannel outfits asked Brad to take several photos of them in front of the cornucopia in hopes of getting a good Christmas card photo. Posing in front of the cornucopia actually made us late to the next thing, the governor’s birthday party.
While rushing to the Iowa governor’s bash, which all the candidates were planning to attend, we accidentally crashed a wedding at the Altoona Adventureland Hotel. We asked the bar staff where we were SUPPOSED to be, and they said, “You need to go to AdventureLAND, not Adventureland.” Yep.
Newt Gingrich is most definitely the man of the moment. People mobbed the guy as soon as he came in, even though he wasn’t that nice to them and was generally surly during the forum.
After the long day of work, all the boys ignored me at the microbrewery place to instead pay attention to their cell phones. We watched two college football games on the TV screens but that wasn’t enough. They followed the other two on their phones. To be fair, Young Danny was actually focused on final edits to his story.
In perhaps the most amusing part of a weekend of amusement, a Democratic fundraiser who came into the bar for a nightcap started complimenting us on our fashion. He started talking us up about football, but then pivoted to asking about our various backgrounds. “I wanted to get at where you’re from cause you all are dressed pretty sophisticated for Iowa,” he said. To photographer Brad, he said, “I pay attention to fashion, and you’re pants aren’t Carhartts, so I figured you weren’t from here.”