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Politics & Government

I've Been Everywhere: A Political Reporter's Landmark Moment

The morning sun illuminates the Grand Tetons, in Grand Teton National Park, Wyo., Saturday, Aug 27, 2016.
The morning sun illuminates the Grand Tetons, in Grand Teton National Park, Wyo., Saturday, Aug 27, 2016.

My job — for years now — has been NPR national political correspondent. I spend lots of time on the road. Chasing candidates, certainly, but also sitting down to have conversations — some long, some short — with voters.

Last week, a milestone.

While in Wyoming, on a visit with our colleagues at Wyoming Public Media, I checked off number 50 on the list of states I've been to. Fifty. I've actually spent time in all of them now. Not just changing planes at the airport.

Sure, I visited a lot before I covered politics — cross-country drives on vacations as a kid, that sort of thing. But about half have been working on stories for NPR.

Elections mean a lot of travel, and every campaign leaves lasting images in the mind. In Iowa I've seen countless candidates on stages stacked with hay bales, and watched Mitt Romney eat a corn dog at the fair. In St. Louis, I watched presidential hopeful Barack Obama draw a crowd of 100,000 underneath the Gateway Arch, with the Old Courthouse — the site where the Dred Scott case was heard — also in view.

Then there's the old farmhouse I saw in western Pennsylvania, painted top to bottom like an American flag, with a giant sheet metal cutout of Donald Trump standing near the road. There were the librarians in Janesville, Wis., who showed me all of Paul Ryan's old high school yearbooks.

And, oh yeah — I was also there when Mike Dukakis rode that tank in Michigan.

Here's one of my rules of the road. Always find the local treasures. It might be that Edward Hopper painting in Richmond. Or music legend Jimmie Rodgers' grave site in Meridian, Miss. Or that high school gym in rural Indiana where they shot the movie Hoosiers. Or maybe just the cool neon on that diner off the freeway.

I do it to get a sense of place, to get my head out of the news for a moment. To connect.

So, 50 states. Thank you to Wyoming and the voters I met there. And to the Grand Tetons for being a pretty great exclamation point.

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