From the Road with McPike: Got Milk?

Today we feature the last in our From the Road interviews during the Midterm election coverage. The interview is with RealClearPolitics‘s Erin McPike, who has spent the past few months crisscrossing the country with her colleague Scott Conroy. McPike was in Portland when we checked up on her. She moved on to Seattle where she spent election night and stayed at a hotel near the water.

Note to readers: Our From the Road feature will continue. Are you hitting the road for work? Let us know about it at or

What is your biggest impression of the campaign trail? You know how people say Washington is out of touch – no matter who is in charge? The Beltway IS a bubble. Joe Klein took a similar road trip and wrote about it in his cover story for TIME; he said his personal Beltway Bubble “turns out to be more a state of mind and a set of habits than an actual place.” He’s right.

Describe your stay in Portland. It’s a lot bigger than expected. Coffee shops, nice people, outdoorsy, rainy, full of character. On Saturday we asked a hotel clerk how long it was supposed to rain, and her good-natured response was, “Probably till May.”

How have the campaign staffs treated you? In Oregon, they’re all delightful. Campaign staffs in most areas we’ve been are generally very helpful. Talking to staff in person is always better than on the phone.

What have you been eating/drinking there? We’ve been in wine country for several days, which is fine with me. Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir have never been favorites of mine, though, but they are big up here in the Pacific Northwest and pretty good here. My colleague, Scott Conroy, makes fun of me because my favorite beverage is milk, and I can’t get enough of it. Scott drinks IPA almost exclusively. We’ve eaten a lot of oysters and a lot of junk.

Is McPike looking forward to returning to “real life”? Find out…

What has surprised you? The number of male Republican voters who told me – unprompted – that they want to see a woman become president has been pretty interesting. None of them were very psyched about Sarah Palin, but there were a lot of older male Republicans across the country who told me they thought a woman president could do a better job than the presidents they’ve seen.

Details of races there you are covering. Oregon is a pretty blue state, and President Obama is fairly popular here compared to other parts of the country. The races here are very, very close, and the Republicans are walking fine lines in how they create contrasts with the Democrats. We spent most of our time on the governor’s race between Chris Dudley, a Republican new to politics who played in the NBA, and John Kitzhaber, a Democratic former governor.

Most amusing detail of this stop? Scott asked Chris Dudley, the 16-year, 6’11” NBA player turned GOP nominee for governor in Oregon, if he could stand on a chair and try to dunk on him. Um, let’s just say Dudley owned him. Other good ones: Rob Portman laughed at me when I asked him in Columbus about Senate leadership elections and said, “Erin, you are such a Washington insider!” Scott and Peter Hamby of CNN couldn’t get enough of that one. Robin Carnahan thought we were fish out of water when we told her we wanted to find a place to eat sushi in St. Louis.

Are you looking forward to returning to “real life” or no? I’m not sure. I love traveling and covering stories on the ground and seeing interesting people and places, but I could probably stand to eat some spinach for a good long while. And I miss my Beltway reporter friends.

Biggest annoyance: Scott has a tendency to repeat things he finds funny – over, and over, and over again. That isn’t so bothersome. But there’s one that kills me. He and Hamby, who was around for a few days, are big fans of a remixed local news story that made a “musical” star out of one of the interviewees. Scott repeats the following line multiple times daily at random intervals and for no apparent reason: “You are so dumb. You are really dumb. For real.”

Most interesting person you’ve met: The staffer who showed us around the Clinton Library when we were in Little Rock was in his early 30s, and I could tell when he introduced himself that he’s a future politician. So I asked if either of his parents held office at any point. His mother was in the state legislature. I asked if he’ll ever run for governor. His response was, “Yeah, I’ll run for something at some point.” It turns out he was asked to run for a big office this year, but he and his wife just had their first child, so it was bad timing.

Sample of your work. Your choice. We talked to voters throughout the country and many have not bought into the spin wanted to do their own research on races. We concentrated on young voters for a piece on that dynamic. Read here.