With Mitt Romney wrapping up his six-state bus tour in Michigan yesterday, some pundits have been pondering the nature of the bus tour. A recent addition to campaign strategy — and the distant cousin of whistle stop train tours in the late 19th and early 20th centuries — bus tours are frequently used to drum up enthusiasm and media coverage for candidates.
Bus tours are a relatively new phenomenon, as the New York Times points out. One of the first tours to get major press attention was Bill Clinton and Al Gore’s 1,240 mile, six-day jaunt across eight states in 1992. What they — and future candidates — discovered is that a bus tour is an event that both captures the media’s eye, and is heavily scripted, so as to avoid embarrassing moments or political gaffes.
As important, if not more important, than the events and places a bus tour visits is the name given to that tour. Here are five of the more memorable names, official or otherwise, that have been given to bus tours.
Every Town Counts
This was the Romney campaign’s name for his most recent tour, which took him through several battleground states for the 2012 election. Romney was visiting smaller, more traditionally Republican locations in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa and Michigan. Romney hopes to flip swing states that went for Obama back into the GOP fold by drumming up enthusiasm from Republican voters in smaller towns.
Straight Talk Express
John McCain used this name for bus tours he undertook in 2000, while running unsuccessfully for the GOP presidential nomination against George W. Bush, and in 2008, when he lost the election to Barack Obama. In 2008, the Straight Talk Express ran into some difficulties capturing its 2000 magic: it was involved in a collision in Florida, and was later seen sporting an Obama bumper sticker.
Marathon For the Middle Class
In 2008, John Edwards attempted a 36-hour bus tour through 15 of Iowa’s 99 counties, in an attempt to win the Democratic caucus there. Unfortunately for Edwards, his bus broke down after 12 hours, cutting the tour short. Edwards placed second in Iowa behind Obama and ahead of Hillary Clinton, but his political career only went downhill from there.
Newt Talk Express
Officially dubbed the “Jobs and Growth” tour, Newt Gingrich staffers informally dubbed his December Iowa bus tour with a more appropriate nickname, playing off of McCain’s past success with his own tour.
Magical Misery Tour
Republicans, including Romney’s campaign, have taken to using this play on the Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour album to describe President Obama’s trips to promote his jobs plan.
For other memorable names, and more information on bus tours, check out this New York Times article.
–Benjamin Nanamaker, InvestorPlace Money & Politics Editor
The opinions contained in this column are solely those of the writer.
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