A recent CU-Boulder graduate and political junkie from Germany travels America in a beat-up Saab trying to understand the places where presidential elections are decided.
The T-shirt’s biting irony caught my attention.
“Is there a bale of hay I can interview you next to?” it blared.
This was at Raygun, a store in Des Moines, Iowa, offering a mishmash of quaint election paraphernalia. Its product lineup includes a lot of T-shirts, like the one I was staring at, taking humorous aim at the presidential campaign circus that had once again descended upon the state.
It was July 2015 and I was part of the circus: I’d come to Iowa to report on the election, along with a horde of journalists from all over the country. The state was my first stop on a three-month cross-country reporting trip for the University of Colorado Boulder’s explanatory journalism project CU News Corps (CUNC), a part of the College of Media, Communication and Information.
CUNC had hired me, a recent master’s graduate, as its assistant director and lead reporter. With another presidential election looming, we had decided to pursue a project called “States in Play.” The mission was straightforward, if not simple: I would travel to every presidential battleground state and try to explain, through anecdotes and campaign trail tales, what gives these pivotal states their de-facto tie-breaker status in presidential elections and what they reveal about presidential politics in America. I had also vowed to break with the pack habit of simply trailing the candidates. (…)
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