Road Show

Want to know more about Jeb Bush? The machinations of Florida's Republican party? Vomiting? Get on the bus.

In the parking lot, on my way to my room, I run into Tom DiNanno. He's cleaning out the motor home, readying it for the morning. It had been a long day for all of us, but especially for DiNanno, and I think briefly about offering him one of my drinks. "Rough day," I say.

"I understand when Jeb gets mad at us," DiNanno says, immediately picking up on my meaning. "It's okay. He just wants to do good. You have to realize, there is something special going on here. I believe in what's happening. It's not blind. I believe." DiNanno feels so passionately about Bush that when he talks of the campaign and the people involved, his hands tremble. At the moment, though, he is upset with himself; in some way, he may have let Bush down today. He promises things will go more smoothly tomorrow -- no glitches, no mistakes.

From my room I see DiNanno spreading a road map across the trunk of one of the cars. He is joined by Andy Feeney and Brett Doster. Under the lights of the parking lot, they go over the directions they'll take the next day. To make absolutely sure they know where they're going, all three get into the car and actually drive the route in advance. As a result they don't get to bed until about 3:00 a.m.

THURSDAY
The Bush caravan has now nearly doubled in size. In addition to the lead car, the minivan, and the motor home, we've been joined by a second minivan and a large truck with the words "Marty's Grip and Lighting" stenciled on the door. A crew of eight accompanies the new vehicles. They are here to shoot footage of Bush on the campaign trail for use in commercials later in the campaign. Out of seven hours of film they'll shoot, they hope for perhaps 90 seconds of usable material.

The process makes Bush uneasy. Following the first stops of the day, including breakfast at a senior center, where members of the film crew seemed to terrify the elderly residents by dangling lighting equipment and boom mikes over their heads, Bush announces agitatedly, "We're going to have to have a sit-down about this." As he returns to the motor home and tries to tear the wireless microphone off his back, he grumbles, "I hate this. This is only the second event of the day and I already hate this."

"Some people it bothers more than others," shrugs director Alex Castellanos. "Jeb just wants to talk to the folks out there, and here I am making it an artificial situation. But he also understands that we want to use TV to talk to people in their living rooms, and that it's a powerful message. If I step too much on his toes, he'll let me know."

Bush quickly relaxes in the safety of the motor home. "I know it's necessary and it works," he says. "That's what the scary part is -- it will all turn out so informal and so natural."

Castellanos and Bush have been friends for years. Born in Cuba but raised in the United States, Castellanos is considered to be a media star in Republican Party circles, having produced thousands of commercials over his twenty-year career, including a few for the Bush-Quayle campaign in 1992. "We're just going to go out there and give magic a chance to happen," Castellanos says of his goal for this trip. But magic doesn't come cheap. The crew A not counting Castellanos A which will hang on Bush for the next three days, costs the campaign approximately $5000 a day.

Some of that money is to be spent conducting interviews with Bush supporters. At one point crew members corner Ethel Schuster, a 72-year-old Fort Pierce woman whose sweet face says All-American Grandmother. Castellanos isn't with the crew during this interview. In his place as director is Pete Pessel, who asks Schuster a few general questions, hoping for a three-second snippet that might be used in one of Bush's commercials. Schuster appears thrilled that anyone would ask her opinion about anything, and she does her best to provide thoughtful answers. But after a couple of minutes, in the middle of her response about why she likes Bush's plan to overhaul education, the sound man runs out of tape.

"Cut!" yells the sound man.
"Cut!" yells the grip.
"Cut! Cut!" yells the gaffer.

All of these men shouting "Cut!" are standing a few feet from Schuster, who has no idea what's going on, or that it even concerns her. She was simply having a nice discussion with Pete, she thought, and if they wanted to film it, fine. But by the fourth or fifth shout of "Cut!" Pessel finally hears the cries of his crew, spins 180 degrees on his heels, and begins walking back to the camera, also yelling, "Cut!" Meanwhile, Schuster is left standing alone, still diligently answering the question posed to her, until she realizes no one is listening any more. Finally she just walks away.

One person who would never be left standing is Bush's wife, Columba. Throughout the trip, she reads a book in Spanish. Its title: Secrets About Men That Every Woman Should Know. "I want to keep my marriage interesting," she says.

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