Tales From the Trail: The Campaign Plague

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Journalists do their best to remain unbiased observers and reporters of the news, but I’ve recently been able to empathize with Marco Rubio on at least one level -- being sick on the campaign trail is the worst.

It’s also an inevitable rite of passage. The trail provides the perfect combination of terrible conditions to ensure your immune system is battered and viruses can take advantage. Little sleep, nonstop travel, unhealthy food and constant stress have never been what the doctor prescribes for health and happiness. And when one person falls ill on the campaign, the entire staff and traveling press corps is sure to catch whatever they’ve got after spending days with them in the cramped quarters of a press van or a charter plane.

Rubio lost his voice a little over a week ago, bringing surrogates out on the trail to help him finish a final round of pre-Super Tuesday campaigning. That turned into a full-blown flu this past week, bad enough that he avoided shaking hands after last week’s debate because he didn’t want to spread his germs. At the Conservative Political Action Conference this weekend, he fought through visible fatigue and audible congestion to deliver a speech on conservatism, joking in-between coughs that “I feel 45 this week, because I have had the flu.”

Meanwhile, I’ve been fighting through a decidedly less visible and audible — but no less fatiguing — cold myself to cover the candidate, one that’s made it hard to keep up with the pace of his campaign. You snatch sleep when you can on the trail to begin with; this weekend, most of my brainpower was focused on fitting extra sleep into my schedule while covering Rubio in Kansas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

Both of our voices are coming back, and I can finally hear out of both ears. It appears we are both on the mend. And it's a good thing, too, because the final sprint to the Florida primary will leave no time for rest for either of us.

-- Alexandra Jaffe covering the Rubio campaign