McCain, Obama campaigns rack up hours and mileage

The last remaining days of this campaign will probably be the most hectic, the most work-filled, and the most strenuous for each campaign. Despite Obama’s slight lead in the polls, his campaign is working the same kind of overtime and long hours the McCain campaign is working.

Sorry for the massive length here, however, this stuff fascinates me how it’s all coordinated.

Report from USAToday:

In the marathon of presidential campaigns, every day is a series of sprints.

So it was Saturday as John McCain and Barack Obama crisscrossed four “red” states that historically vote Republican. It was a whirlwind of Marriotts and Hiltons, tarmacs and TV interviews, bluegrass and The Boss, pizzas and sweet potato pie.

There were high notes, such as an Obama rally that drew 100,000 people, and low points, such as when a McCain placard-turned-Frisbee conked a visually impaired toddler on the head.

On Saturday, the two candidates and their entourages, including dozens of reporters, traveled nearly 2,000 miles. Democrat Obama, perhaps reflecting his lead in the polls, went farther: 1,334 miles from Missouri to North Carolina. Republican McCain, perhaps reflecting his role as the underdog, hit more states: North Carolina, Virginia and Ohio.

All those states voted for President Bush four years ago, and McCain probably must take them all to win the White House. So they get a lot of VIP traffic these days; others are flyover territory.

Here’s a look at the efforts of the Obama campaign, also from USAToday:

An hour before Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama left home for a workout Saturday in Chicago, Jen Greenfield was in St. Louis, working to build the crowd who would greet the senator several hours later.

“I was on the phone by about 7:30 in the morning,” a smiling Greenfield says after a rally that drew 100,000 to the banks of the Mississippi under the St. Louis arch to hear the Democratic presidential nominee.

The crowd was built one volunteer at a time; Greenfield, a 38-year-old Obama volunteer, a candidate for a doctorate in social work at Washington University, called seven people and urged each of them to bring five downtown “because we wanted to have as many people here as possible.”

Election Day minus 17, the 616th day since Obama formally declared his quest for the presidency on Feb. 10, 2007, would take the Illinois senator 1,334 miles — from Chicago, across Missouri, and finally to central North Carolina, where he ended his day shortly before midnight.

Heading into the final two weeks of the campaign, Obama is setting records for crowds, cash and carbohydrates. His journey is heading into its final phase powered by pizza, pie, jet fuel and the energy of hundreds of volunteers and behind-the-scenes workers who make his ever-longer days possible.

Morning in Chicago

At 4 a.m. Central time, Mamdouh Megally of the Air Charter Team, the company that operates Obama’s Boeing 757 charter, is up to get the jet ready. Since June, the jet has logged 57,222 miles — the equivalent of two trips around the world.

Two hours later and about 300 miles south, Sgt. Steve Swofford of the St. Louis Airport police and his bomb-sniffing dog Lexie report for duty on the banks of the Mississippi River to help secure the site where Obama will speak.

Obama, after a rare night at home with his family, heads out to the gym at 7: 30 a.m. An hour later, he’s back home to change.

At 10:20 a.m. Obama’s charter, custom-painted with his red, white and blue logo, takes off for St. Louis with 72 people aboard. Among the passengers: journalists, Secret Service agents, whose campaign shifts are measured in weeks, not hours; and support staff for whom the road has become a way of life.

They include press secretary Jen Psaki, who this year traded the keys to her apartment for a large suitcase, and Jim Jiranek, a Wi-Fi internet technician who hasn’t seen his house in Pennsylvania since before the Democratic convention in late August.

Afternoon in St. Louis

By the time Obama takes the stage at 12:15 p.m., the crowd waiting for him in downtown St. Louis is being hailed as a landmark by local politicians.

“There has never been a crowd like this for a political rally in Missouri,” says Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.

To Greenfield, the volunteer whose phone tree helped build it, “it made my heart soar.”

The well-funded Obama campaign has equipment to ensure that the day’s images soar as well. Joe Henry and Josh Jackson of a local equipment rental company keep two hydraulic lifts in continuous operation, hoisting news photographers into the air to take pictures of the sea of people listening to Obama speak under the steel arch that is St. Louis’ trademark.

In the background is another landmark, the city’s old courthouse, a historic monument where the slave Dred Scott in 1846 sued for his freedom. The case ended 11 years later with an infamous Supreme Court decision — later reversed by the 14th Amendment to the Constitution — that stripped African Americans of their rights of citizenship.

Most members of the crowd are rooting for Obama, the biracial son of a Kenyan exchange student and white mother, to become the first African American president.

“The man is presidential; he’s calm, cool, deliberate,” says Dave Reinert, 66, who drove five hours from his home in Oxford, Ark., to see Obama. “We know he’s probably not going to come to Arkansas, so we thought maybe we could come up here and lend a little support to Missouri.”

As the crowd leaves, Obama lingers in a tent to do local TV interviews and refuel. Four slices of pizza disappear into his slender frame in quick succession, to the amazement of his staff. “I’ve never seen him out-eat me,” says Robert Gibbs, a senior adviser who has traveled with Obama since April 2007. “But he did.”

Arriving in Kansas City at 3:33 p.m., Obama heads straight to his local headquarters to help on the phone bank. “I am not kidding you. I am serious, here he is,” Karen Puhr tells one voter as she hands over the phone.

“Hey, Ms. Turner, this is Barack Obama, how are you?” Obama says. “Are you going to be voting in this election?”

After repeating the process about a dozen more times, Obama spies a box delivered by Marcia Prentiss, owner of a local bakery. Inside: a sweet potato pie, cut into slices. It heads out the door with the candidate.

Evening in Kansas City

At 5:25 p.m., politicians warm up the crowd at Kansas City’s War Memorial park overlooking the downtown. “We are taking people to the polls if it’s raining, snowing, hurricane-ing. We have had enough!” says Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, who represents Kansas City, Mo.

The sun is setting as Obama wraps up his stump speech by urging the crowd not to be complacent. “I learned my lesson from my great friend and supporter, Hillary Clinton, in New Hampshire,” says Obama, referring to the defeat his onetime rival handed him in the primary there. “You can’t let up.”

Proving that he has no intention of doing so, Obama heads back to the airport by 6:50 p.m. to fly to Fayetteville, N.C., putting himself in position for another day of stumping in a swing state. He fell asleep after midnight, after unwinding by watching ESPN.

After midnight local time, Eric Lesser, a 2007 Harvard University graduate who is chief of Obama’s ground logistics delivers the last reporters’ bags to a Holiday Inn where they are staying — and where, in just a few hours, they will head out again with Obama.

Quite a mind-blowing schedule I can’t even fathom.

A look at the McCain campaign efforts, also from USAToday:

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Republican John McCain woke up Saturday in Charlotte. Two plane trips, two rallies in two states, eight TV interviews and hundreds of shaken hands later, he ended his more than 12-hour workday at a hotel here.

Along the way, the McCain campaign crossed paths with a young mom and her daughter; with two African-American voters with different views of Democrat Barack Obama, the first black presidential nominee of a major party; and with a college government major getting his first taste of the campaign trail.

Ohio volunteer Jim Samuel said the appearances by McCain are important for the GOP faithful like him who knock on doors, make phone calls and try to turn out the vote for Election Day.

“The die-hards,” he said, “want to get out and see the candidate.”

Morning in North Carolina

Around 7:30 a.m. ET, reporters and McCain aides drop off their bags in a third-floor room at the Marriott hotel in downtown Charlotte, in the heart of a state President Bush won easily in 2000 and 2004. Obama, however, is making a serious challenge in this red state. Upstairs, McCain studies briefing books and prepares for taped interviews with North Carolina TV outlets.

While McCain speaks to the local reporters, the traveling press bus rumbles toward the Cabarrus Arena & Events Center in Concord, near the state’s famed NASCAR track. Inside a warehouse-like building, a bluegrass band entertains about 7,000 people.

On a set of bleachers, a man flings blue-and-white McCain signs Frisbee-style to the people below. One of the cardboard rectangles sails and hits 3-year-old Kaitlyn Hagler on the head.

“It’s dangerous in here isn’t it?” jokes the child’s mother, Melissa Hagler, 24, from Salisbury. She holds the little girl wearing thick glasses because of a vision problem, as she explains her concerns about Obama. “I don’t feel any straight answers are coming out of him,” she says.

Hagler says she is leaning toward McCain, citing his experience and military service, with one reservation: “age.” McCain is 72 years old; Obama is 47.

When McCain ascends the stage shortly before 11 a.m. ET, he is greeted by hand-painted signs extolling “Joe the Plumber.” Joe Wurzelbacher is the Toledo, Ohio, man who confronted Obama about tax policy last week, inspiring McCain to invoke him repeatedly during the final debate as an example of an average Joe and to revamp his stump speech.

Citing his new friend Joe, McCain draws cheers during his 25-minute speech, saying Obama “believes in redistributing wealth, not in policies that grow our economy and create jobs and opportunities for all Americans.”

Afternoon in Virginia

Forty-six newspaper, TV and radio journalists board the McCain plane dubbed Straight Talk Air at about 12:15 p.m. ET for a short flight to Northern Virginia, the day’s second stop. The state was last won by a Democrat in 1964, but Obama has a slight lead in statewide polls.

The plane is a moving collage, plastered with snapshots of events. The curtain separating reporters from the candidate is flanked by life-size cutouts of McCain and running mate Sarah Palin. She is not aboard, preparing for an appearance on NBC’s Saturday Night Live.

On the ground, police have reserved the high-occupancy vehicle lane on the highway for the McCain motorcade, which races to the Prince William County sports and events complex in Woodbridge. About 8,000 people are waiting.

A chill wind blows as McCain fires up the crowd with a stump speech similar to the one he delivered hours before. He hits Obama on taxes, telling the Virginians that his rival will raise them. Obama is “going in a socialist direction,” says Terry Monroe, an Army contractor from Manassas.

The crowd revs up, chanting McCain’s solution to the nation’s energy problems: “Drill, Baby, Drill.” They add a new war cry: “Lib-er-al press! Lib-er-al press!”

The crowd is mostly white, even though Northern Virginia is one of the state’s most diverse areas. Andre Batson, 45, a contracting officer with the Army Corps of Engineers is one of the few blacks in the crowd. He calls fellow veteran McCain “an honorable fella” but says Obama would do a better job with Iraq and the economy.

Marcus Woodson, 29, who is also black, says he likes Obama “but not as the president right now,” adding that McCain’s experience stands out. “I believe he’s going to do the best job,” says Woodson, a 7-Eleven clerk.

Taking it all in is Kenny Ly, 22, a senior at Patrick Henry College in Purcellville. He is a GOP volunteer driving a press van to and from a Washington airport; a textbook called Congress & Its Members on the floor beside him.

“I sit in the classroom and study it,” Ly says. “But to see it is different. It’s more real.”

Before McCain leaves for Ohio, where he will sleep for the night, he heads to his national campaign headquarters, a short drive from the airport. For 40 minutes, he is out of sight, but his campaign says he’s doing interviews with reporters from Missouri, Florida, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, New Hampshire and Iowa — all battleground states.

Across the Potomac River, Democratic National Committee spokesman Damien LaVera puts the finishing touches on his press release slamming McCain’s Virginia appearance.

Evening in Ohio

After a short flight to Ohio, McCain and his motorcade finally arrive at a Hilton hotel in northern Columbus at about 7:50 p.m. ET. Tom and Christy Pritchard and their friends, John and Vicki Morrison, wait in the lobby for a peek at McCain, but the GOP nominee enters by a side door and heads upstairs to his room.

The foursome, who live in the Columbus area, say they plan to vote for McCain. They lament that politics seems to weed out people who are not wealthy or egocentric.

“It’s a grueling process,” says Pritchard, a businessman. “I don’t know how they do it.”

Just astonishing how much work is put into these campaigns, they’re spending hundreds of hours a week on rallies, travel, and general campaign stops. I’m guessing a decent amount of Red Bull is consumed by both campaigns.