Tales From the Trail: Bill Clinton’s Walk Down Memory Lane

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Wearing her support on her sleeveless dress

TULSA, Okla. -- The Trump-Palin mega-merger may have upended the news cycle, but it’s getting mixed reviews on the ground in Oklahoma.

The new political dynamic duo made an appearance in Tulsa, Oklahoma on Wednesday, with media interest only piqued by Palin’s no-show at Trump’s morning rally in Norfolk, Iowa. (Though according to the Trump campaign and Palin herself, this was all as planned.)

But while Trump supporters here vacillated on if they liked Palin and what kind of role they think she should (or shouldn’t) play, Barbara Tomasino of Plano, Texas was wholehearted in her support of Trump and didn’t shy away from wearing it on her sleeve – literally. Sporting a dress with pictures of Trump all over it that she also wore to a Trump mega-rally in Dallas, Tomasino said she hoped the GOP frontrunner would see it, but was doubtful that she would be spotted in the sea of supporters.

Still, she said that for her it was worth the four-ish hour drive from Texas to see the business mogul one more time.

-- Ali Vitali covering the Trump campaign

Bill Clinton takes a walk down memory lane

CONCORD, N.H. — Along with accentuating his wife’s policy differences with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Bill Clinton threw in some New England nostalgia while campaigning in New Hampshire on Wednesday.

"I took a little walk down memory lane before I got here," he told a crowd of about 400 gathered here at the Green Street Community Center.

"I stopped at a Dunkin’ Donuts,” the former president said before adding that he “survived” his New Hampshire primary on the coffee chain. He joked that he “gained 20 pounds” during the primary process.

New Hampshire was the state that ignited Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign in 1992 after he came in a surprise second behind Paul Tsongas, declaring himself the “Comeback Kid.” Hillary Clinton had her own rebound in New Hampshire in 2008, winning the state after Barack Obama’s victory in Iowa. Of course, it wasn’t enough to win the nomination.

Now Hillary Clinton is locked in an increasingly heated battle with Sanders in the state that holds special significance to the Clintons.

"I want to tell you. This state has been so good to me and to Hillary,” Bill Clinton told the crowd, adding that it is here where he "learned a great deal” about what is going on in America.

"I trust you to make a good decision," he said.

-- Kailani Koenig covering the New Hampshire primary

‘Hey Marco’

Students supporting Jeb Bush didn’t want to go unnoticed when the Marco Rubio campaign began touting its support among millennial voters with a new ad.

Bush’s college-age backers took it upon themselves to launch a Twitter war with their own counter message with tweets that finished the sentence “Hey @MarcoRubio…”

“It wasn’t as much that we wanted to knock him out as to say, ‘Hey we’re in the ball game too,” said Jimmy Peacock, the South Carolina state coordinator for the campaign’s campus organizing arm Mission Next.

Peacock told me the tweets weren’t designed as a dis to the Rubio campaign – and weren’t sanctioned by the official Bush organization – but were about touting Bush’s own organizational strength among students. He said students make up the base of Bush’s grassroots support in states like South Carolina and seeing Rubio’s message “fired them up.”

-- Jordan Frasier covering the Bush campaign

The essence of grassroots campaigning

Far from the blustery rhetoric that has come to define the presidential primary, campaigns are making simple, quiet, and cold (sometimes very cold) efforts to win over caucus goers and voters in the early states.

Answer your front door in Iowa or New Hampshire and you're liable to find a campaign staffer or volunteer asking for your support. It's often a silent journey through frigid neighborhood streets, but door knockers have a message they're out to deliver -- most often as simply volunteers who traveled many miles and across state border lines to do.

Campaign operations call the neighborhood door-knocking routine as “canvassing” or blanketing a community. But for campaign volunteers, it’s the simple walks up and down these often remote neighborhoods in Iowa and New Hampshire that are quintessential grassroots politics.

Forget the polls or the debates.

On Wednesday, I took a stroll through a Raymond, New Hampshire, neighborhood with two Cruz volunteers – Mary Brown, a student at the University of Oklahoma, and John Hages, a retired former Scott Walker backer from Michigan. Neither volunteer knew each other, but they both arrived to the state last week and are staying at the campaign’s “Camp Cruz” in the state.

“I was a few semesters ahead in school, so I was like, ‘Yeah, that sounds pretty cool,’” said Brown, who is taking the semester off after a family friend told her about the opportunity to live in New Hampshire leading up to the primary.

The pair embarked on their journey in 25 degree sunny skies with 20 mph winds blowing. The snow that still blanketed the ground would dust up into the air every few moments. With houses on significant plots of property, the two to three-minute walk between homes and the ascending hills make this effort a relatively dogged one.

Sure, phone banking may keep your mind and mouth moving, but you have to keep the physical stamina in check to maintain daily door knocking.

This volunteer effort takes more than a beanie, gloves and a clipboard, especially when you’re trying to overpower the blessed winters of Iowa and New Hampshire.

-- Vaughn Hillyard covering the Cruz campaign

John Wayne Vs. Sarah Palin

AMES, Iowa—While the media and political world flew like moths to a flame to the much hyped Sarah Palin endorsement of Donald Trump, some Iowans thought that wasn’t his biggest endorsement Tuesday.

“It’s probably not as important as John Wayne’s family supporting him today,” said Joan, a retiree from Ames on the importance of Palin’s endorsement.

“Because they’re Iowans,” Joan explained referring to cowboy movie star’s Iowan roots. She smiled and looked to her husband for affirmation who nodded in agreement. Both added they were more excited to see Trump than Sarah Palin at Trump’s Iowa State rally Tuesday night.

Several hours before the former governor of Alaska took the stage with Trump, Aissa Wayne, the daughter of movie legend John Wayne, offered her and her family’s endorsement at John Wayne’s birthplace museum 40 minutes away in Winterset, Iowa.

“If John Wayne were around, he’d be standing right here instead of me,” Wayne proclaimed as a life size wax John Wayne figure loomed in the background.

When NBC News asked Jim Lohr—another Ames resident and Trump rally attendee—about his thoughts of Sarah Palin’s big endorsement, he also felt it was the second best endorsement of the day.

“I don’t think [Palin’s endorsement is] positive. I don’t think it would add much,” said Lohr, who is leaning toward supporting Carly Fiorina.

“But I understand John Wayne’s daughter has endorsed him. Now Wayne as you probably know is a native Iowan. That may have more effect in Iowa than Sarah Palin does,” hypothesized Lohr.

John Wayne was born in Winterset, Iowa on May 26, 1907, and his birthplace museum has been a campaign stop for many candidates this cycle.

-- Danny Freeman covering the Iowa caucuses