(Des Moines, IA) An elderly man who said his name was Earl sat at the picnic table fuming Friday morning as he stared at his empty plate..
“I can’t hardly breathe and I can’t get my pancakes,” Earl said, scowling at the entourage of cameras, microphones, reporters and, at its center, the presidential candidate which was moving through the picnic shelter in a Des Moines park.
Fifteen minutes earlier, Texas Governor George W. Bush, his staff, his Texas Ranger guards and the media throng which accompanies the republican presidential candidate had arrived at the pancake breakfast which was a benefit for the Des Moines Public Library.
“Take advantage of the 99 cent pancakes,” one man yelled to Bush. “I imagine he could buy a pancake or two,” he joked with by-standers. The crowd of pancake-eaters was a mix of library supporters and neighborhood residents, many of whom were not Bush backers.
“He’s honest,” the shouter said of Bush. “He’s got integrity. I think he’d make a good president, but I’m a Bill Bradley man.”
One Quayle supporter in the crowd acknowledged she’d “probably end up voting for Bush and feeling good about it.” Bush flipped pancakes, shook hands and signed autographs, although one woman complained hers was “barely legible.”
Drake University political science professor Hugh Weinbrenner said the event was one more example of how Bush is re-writing the rules of presidential campaigning in Iowa.
“It’s hard to imagine that we’re going to have any small, intimate, living room settings with Bush because everything’s a media event,” Weinbrenner said as he stood observing. “Certainly, Mr. Bush has all the advantages and the name is such that wherever he goes, he attracts a crowd.”
Weinbrenner is the author of two books which focus on the Iowa Caucuses, a first test in the presidential campaign. A few reporters stopped to chat with the professor, wondering aloud how those who support Bush can do so without knowing much about him.
“I think the republicans are very hungry for a winner,” Weinbrenner said. “Many of them feel that the Bush mystique is strong enough to take them all the way to the White House and they’re willing to put the details on the back burner, for the time being at least.”
After about half an hour, Bush put himself back on his campaign bus, dubbed “Asphault One” by one reporter, and headed for another outdoor picnic an hour away in Ames, Iowa.