All right, I know it's a little late. But as readers know, I've been a speechwriter on a Presidential campaign, and I did not use the Huffington Post pulpit to pronounce my support for my candidate. My candidate was Joe Biden.
I went to work as a speechwriter for Senator Biden several months ago. At first, the work came in small drips, and that allowed me to continue working for my other clients. A dramatic uptick came in July, when a deluge of writing requests came pouring in from the Biden team, coinciding with the release of the Senator's autobiography, and it was at that point that I began working day and night to write and email speeches to Iowa, Delaware, and Washington, D.C.
Not a day would go by when a request did not come my way. Education remarks, talking points, can I speak as a surrogate for the Senator at an event in Los Angeles?
I was happy to do it. Why? Because I truly believed that Senator Biden was the best person to be President of the United States. I wanted to work for him, not just because it was a job, which was important, but because I believed in the cause.
I was aware that Hillary and Barack were more popular. The person I share office space with in Los Angeles, Mitchell Schwartz, runs the Obama campaign in California. At various times, I'd have 20 Obama people running by my office, while I sat at my desk, trying to concentrate on my work and trying to avoid the fanatics at the door. They would often ask me how I thought the race would turn out. I'd just smile and do my work.
Senator Biden did not have the celebrity in this race, and because he's from Delaware, where money's not much of an issue when you're running for office, he did not have the fund raising prowess of Hillary (from Chicago, lives in New York) and Barack (Chicago).
I was captivated by the Senator's own life story, which I read in his book, a book that was emailed to me one July Saturday and which I had a frantic six hours to read before I had to start writing a speech about it.
Biden, as some of you probably know, was 29 when he was elected to the Senate. His wife and child were killed in a car accident a couple of months prior to his inauguration. He's a family guy, and he went home every single day to care for his sons, Hunter and Beau.
He built an incredible career in the Senate, a career spent doing the right thing. Not because it was popular - the Violence Against Women's Act was ahead of its time. Not because it was easy - urging an intervention to end genocide in Bosnia was initially considered a request to become mired in a Vietnam-ish quagmire.
So I looked beyond the hype and went to the best candidate, and I was proud to work for Joe.
I traveled to Iowa for the first time in August. I had never been here, and I had not met many of the people working on the campaign, the people I knew not by name but by their email addresses.
It should be noted that the stamina of these candidates is remarkable. They work night and day, they get on a plane many nights, or drive long distances, and show up at event at 7 a.m, refreshed, and give a speech similar to one he's given many times. Four days of traveling with Joe Biden were enough to exhaust me for a week, but he did not have the luxury of exhaustion. He was competing. He kept going, for months.
One day, in University City, I had a couple of free hours, and so I walked around the college town, searching for the best sandwich shop. As I ate the lunch with the velocity of someone who had been stuck in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights, I dusted myself off and walked back toward the hotel, only to encounter Senator Biden, sweaty, in work out clothes. He had used the time off to go to the gym. I worked out by lifting a sandwich. To each their own.
When I would go to an event and watch the Senator speak, I would be absolutely enthralled. Here was a politician who really knew his stuff; he wasn't following the other candidates on Iraq, he was leading them. He knew the heads of state from around the world, and his stories were incredible. He knew when to lower his voice for dramatic effect, he knew when to make a joke. Like a standup comedian, he often told the same joke, with the same emphasis each time, as if it was the first time he'd done the material.
Back in Los Angeles, I often wore my ill-fitting Joe Biden t-shirt, really for narcisstic reasons. Whenever I'd wear it, people would say something. "Biden's a good man," "My friends love Biden." I'm in a word-of-mouth business, so engaging people who knew of Biden was good advertising for him, and for me.
I returned to Iowa this week, for the last days of the campaign. The office was humming, with mostly young people who were able to sacrifice many months of their lives to pack up and move to Iowa. A young man, Sam, picked me up at an airport one day and told me he had moved to Iowa from North Carolina for the campaign. He was living with his third supporter family.
We spent time working the phones, calling people and asking them to stand up for Joe Biden at their caucuses. Most of the people hung up on me. After hundreds of such phone calls, I couldn't blame them.
My first night in town, I was taken to dinner by the reporters from one of the major newspapers. It was me, about 20 of the Barack Obama people, and a few others I'd recognized from TV. There were only about 10 tables in the entire restaurant. The table next to us featured George Stephanopoulos and John Edwards' campaign manager. Jeff Greenfield was an another table. Sim Farar, the great Democratic Party fundraiser, was there with his wife Debbie. The Barack people at my table seemed very calm, very confident.
The next day, I traveled to Waterloo, Iowa, to an event for my boss. I drove up with a reporter from The Washington Post and a reporter from Gannett. The next morning, we met up with someone from ABC News, and we went to see the Senator speak at a morning rally.
As always, the Senator's family was with him. Now, this also needs to be mentioned, because everyone on the campaign talks about it, and every reporter following Senator Biden brings it up: this guy has the nicest family you've ever met. I mean that with all due respect to your family, and to mine. These are the happiest, most sincere group of individuals you'd ever want to meet. They're not snobs. They don't think they're better than anybody. They work hard - some of them had jobs on the campaign, and I'm not talking about no-show jobs, these were people who worked like dogs.
If you can judge a man by his family, then this was another good reason to work for Joe Biden.
Back in Des Moines, I first went to the Hotel Fort Des Moines. Sitting in the coffee shop, Bill and Hillary walked by, with their entourage in tow. I forgot what it must be like to be them, with the Secret Service and all of the people hanging on.
I went to the Science Center for our party, and watched as the results trickled in. I was disappointed in the outcome, but the mood still seemed pretty good. One elderly woman in a walker burst out in tears, but otherwise, we were resigned to the results.
For the staff, now they knew that they were headed home, not to New Hampshire, Nevada, or South Carolina at the very last minute. They would be able to rest, be with their families, go back to their jobs.
When I got back to my hotel, after the caucuses had culminated, a Barack supporter accosted me in the lobby of the Marriott to tell me she had been to 18 states for Barack, as a volunteer. She said she thought he had an almost mystical appeal, and then she asked, "Do you think I'm crazy?" I said, "Yes," gave her the cell phone number of my office mate Mitchell, and raced to the elevator.
For me, it's back to work for my clients, but first, I have to choose between Barack and Hillary. I have a strong opinion on which of the two I believe would make a better President, and I'll let you know my opinion before New Hampshire.
For Joe Biden, I watched that debate from New Hampshire, and it missed the good Senator from Delaware. Joe's up for reelection in November. I plan on supporting him, and I plan on sending him a check; I hope you do, too. The Senate needs Joe Biden, and so do the American people.