Tales from the Trail: What You’ll Hear When Lowering Your Ears

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

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The hair hadn’t been cut since visiting Pope’s Barber Shop in Des Moines before the caucuses. It lengthened in New Hampshire, thickened in South Carolina and Nevada, and devolved into chaos on its way through the South.

But after arriving in Kansas City for a campaign stop Thursday for Cruz across the Missouri River in Kansas, I picked up the phone and plugged in “barber” to Google Maps. Up on the screen popped Anthony’s Barber Shop – a little house, one-chair shop operated by Anthony himself.

I called: “Any chance I could make a visit?”

Anthony responded: “Be here in 20 minutes.”

What’s great about a haircut is that you’re locked into the chair, leaving just you and the man with the clippers to engage in a discussion about life.

As Anthony’s miniature bulldog rolled around a few feet away in the sun seeping through the house windows, our conversation, naturally, entered into the political realm.

He had yet to know what I was doing in Kansas but the TV across the room handed us the headlines of the hour, including word that Mitt Romney intended to give a speech about the 2016 race and knock the candidacy of Donald Trump.

Another customer, Bob, walked in as the story switched to the incoming news that Ben Carson would not be attending Thursday’s GOP debate.

This GOP primary and the awe of Trump has seeped into conversations among the populous, from churches to grocery stores to happy hours.

To hear these two men — both in probably in their 60s -- speak about the GOP frontrunner, you’d think they were Democrats. But the man discussed was Donald Trump. And despite giving him a little head nod for pushing back against the establishment, the pair surmised what life would be like with Trump’s finger on the button of the U.S. military. Anthony suggested, not necessarily in a reassuring way, that no country would want to antagonize the United States because of the potential repercussions initiated by a Trump administration.

I eventually let on that I follow the campaigns on the road for a news network.

But what’s striking is that this very conversation is likely happening in salons and barbershops across the country – right as we were having our own. It’s on the TVs and on folks’ minds.

For a journalist looking for insight into what people imagine a Trump presidency looking like, heading to the local barber is a good starting point.

-- Vaughn Hillyard covering the Cruz campaign