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Tales From the Trail: Clinton Breaks Silence to Traveling Press

Want to know what the NBC News Embeds saw? Follow their daily journey to the inside of the 2016 presidential campaign here:

Clinton Breaks Silence to Traveling Press

MINNEAPOLIS – Hillary Clinton answered questions from her traveling press corps Tuesday for the first time in nearly three months.

During a retail stop at a coffee shop, Clinton commented on everything from David Duke’s apparent support for Donald Trump to her confidence in the Super Tuesday contests.

While every other candidate left in the 2016 race holds regular press conferences, Clinton hadn't gaggled since December 4th in Fort Dodge, Iowa.

In the three months since, Clinton has held hundreds of events across more than 20 states. She did not formally answer questions from her traveling press corps once during that time.

Clinton aides argue that pressers aren't as important when the candidate is doing regular interviews with dozens of print, television and radio outlets.

But recent frustration from reporters who travel with her may have pushed Clinton to hold a media availability after 87 days without one.

Clinton’s rival, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, gaggles regularly. For instance, he answered reporter questions twice in the last 24 hours.

-- Monica Alba covering the Clinton campaign

Cruz Meets His Match in Houston

At a polling location in the Montrose neighborhood of Houston, Cindy Case showed up to West Grayson Community Center to simply vote.

“Trump is who I came here to vote for,” Case said.

But when she arrived to the polling site, she walked past a flurry of media awaiting the arrival of Ted Cruz, who would soon be casting his own ballot at the polling site alongside his wife and two daughters.

Case arrived to the poll with the singular intention of voting for Trump, noting afterward that she didn’t bother to put on her makeup for the occasion.

But after being told by the poll workers that she was not at her correct polling location, Case left – but not before realizing she was about to have the potential opportunity to speak with Cruz – her home state senator and graduate of a local high school -- face to face on her way out.

“I wanted to talk to him in person when I saw I had the opportunity,” Case said later to NBC News. “I left to the parking lot and started talking to two girls that I realized had cast their votes for Ted Cruz, and I told them I was struggling whether to vote for Cruz or Donald Trump.”

Consequently, that one-on-one moment with the senator happened.

It took place a few feet outside of the door as the senator walked back to his car – but surrounding Case was a storm of at least a dozen cameras and an additional dozen reporters as she introduced herself to him.

“Why should I cast my vote for you instead of Donald Trump,” Case asked Cruz from within inches as Heidi Cruz and the daughters in the heart of the hubbub and glaring noon sun. “We’re still looking for the change that Obama never delivered.”

Cruz gladly engaged in the dialogue.

“What I have tried to do everyday as a senator is do exactly what I said I was going to do,” Cruz told, in part, his Republican constituent. “When I ran for senate, I promised I would fight with every breath in my body.”

After their nearly 5-minute exchange, Cruz jumped into his SUV. And Case began debriefing to others nearby about those last ten minutes – and her new voting intentions.

“I became very convinced – in talking with Cruz in person,” Case explained. “Ted Cruz came across to me as very authentic, and I really trusted him more in person speaking to him directly than what I was seeing in front of the camera.”

-- Vaughn Hillyard covering the Cruz campaign

Lifestyles of the Rushed and the Exhausted

Over the past five days, Marco Rubio’s held 16 rallies across 10 states, logging thousands of miles and dozens of hours on the stump.

There’s only one way to make that many events: Charter a plane. And so, over the past five days Rubio’s piled into an 18-seat Dassault Falcon charter, sitting knee-to-knee with advisers at the front of the plane while staff and press fill up the rest.

Flying charter means we can make five campaign rallies in four states in a single day — a feat that seemed unimaginable even as we were doing it. We’d land 30 minutes before an event was scheduled to start — if we were lucky — and speed in a caravan to the rally, sometimes with a police escort.The embeds call it “coming in hot,” and we have to run, towing all of our gear through a crowd already impatient to see the senator, to the press risers to set up in time before Rubio takes the stage.

Chartering offers a literal front-row seat to the senator’s campaign as it unfolds. You can get a sense of how he and his advisers are feeling on any given day, and you see human moments you would otherwise miss, like the senator choosing a candy bar from the basket that’s always full of sweets.

But it has its challenges. It’s a dizzying pace that makes it hard to remember most of the time what state you’re in, what time and what day it is. And we’re never alone — we’re shuttled to and from the plane as a group; we’re delivered food and eat as a group; we all come home to and depart from the same hotel.

We even know when everyone goes to the bathroom. The embeds sit in the back of the plane on two couches facing each other, and we fill up the cramped space with our gear and bags while we work. But the bathroom’s at the back of the plane, too.

So anytime anyone needs to go, they need to climb over the embeds, picking their way through our gear to make it to the very back of the plane.

There's still no beating charter life. But for our next swing, we're getting a bigger plane.

-- Alexandra Jaffe covering the Rubio campaign

Hometown Hero

In most urban centers across the country, graffiti litters the streets. Sometimes it’s vulgar, sometimes it’s gang related, often it’s youth-made.

But you rarely see long-time members of Congress as the subject of graffiti art.

But in Burlington, Vermont, the hometown of Sen. Bernie Sanders, you’re very likely to see a pair of glasses and scraggly hair on the side of a building.

For the first time after several months of covering the Sanders campaign we have returned to Vermont, a Super Tuesday state where the self-described Democratic socialist hopes he can run up the score.

Why? Because the state, and specifically Burlington, practically oozes support for Sanders everywhere you look.

Plastered on one skate shop on the edge of Lake Champlain, “Vote Bernie” was written in bubbly psychedelic letters.

One store on the main thoroughfare of Church Street, you can see artwork celebrating the 74-year-old senator.

The signs of a city who loves its former mayor are everywhere.

But alas, despite Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield’s avid support of Bernie Sanders, don’t expect to find any frozen treats dedicated to the presidential hopeful at the flagship ice cream store in Burlington.

The two sold their company years ago, and Ben Cohen’s personally made “Bernie’s Yearning” ice cream, cannot be found commercially even in Sanders’ hometown.

-- Danny Freeman covering the Sanders campaign

The Weirdest Campaign 'Swag' You'll Find on the Trail

With the always-surprising nature of 2016, it makes sense that the candidate-related swag should match.

Monday night after a Trump rally in Valdosta, Georgia, some fellow reporters and I made our way to Mellow Mushroom for some pizza before hitting the road for a long drive to Florida. While we waited, we talked Trump.

Overheard by another patron, he interrupted and told us "you gotta see what I do for a living."

Then, he told us about his new, satirical “protection.”

He sells them as singles or in threes - one for Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Donald Trump.

Each has different and (WARNING!) very suggestive sayings on them.

And while the creator, Eric Yesbick, declined to tell NBC how much he's profited from the satirical new venture, he explained that he went into business on Thursday and from the way he was smiling, business seemed good.

-- Ali Vitali covering the Trump campaign