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The Nation | CAMPAIGN 2004 / TRAIL MIX

Plane Speaking: Air Time With Dwindling Dean Press Corps

February 15, 2004

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. — When you're a reporter on the presidential campaign trail, flying to four or more cities a day, staying in a different hotel every night, you get attached to the few constants in life.

For those covering Howard Dean, the only constants have been the campaign airplanes -- the one place where the press corps works, eats and (rarely) sleeps. Out of affection, the Dean reporters have taken to naming the various planes the campaign has chartered.

A few weeks ago, when the bulging press corps required two BAC-111s to ferry around the candidate and his entourage, the planes acquired monikers in honor of the previous passengers: Pearl Jam 1 and Pearl Jam 2.

Within a week, Dean's prospects looked dimmer and the reporting entourage had dwindled to about 20 people. As he hopscotched around Wisconsin, Dean was down to just Pearl Jam 1 and a small Mitsubishi Diamondjet named Cheesehead 1.

By Thursday, the campaign -- staffers, candidate and reporters -- fit in one plane.

Members of the news media pondered what to call the newly chartered DC-9. One name came to mind when the pilot mentioned that singer Kenny Rogers once owned it.

"The Gambler!" several people shouted at once as they clambered down the steps.

Some burst into song, chortling over lyrics that seemed written for Dean's roller coaster candidacy: "You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away and know when to run."

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Retail Politics

Click here to buy a Harry Potter book; click there to ... donate money to Lyndon H. LaRouche Jr.?

Online mega-retailer Amazon.com expanded its offerings late last month to the political realm, allowing consumers to make political contributions from their retail site.

The Web page includes links to 15 presidential candidates, from the biggies like President Bush and Sen. John F. Kerry to more obscure names like independent Al Hamburg and Democrat Lucian Wojciechowski.

As of Saturday afternoon, Kerry was ahead with $30,548.50 from 812 contributors giving an average of $37.62. Bush had racked up $9,540.37 from 246 contributors, with an average donation of $38.78. John Edwards had about $14,000, and Howard Dean about $13,000.

The site notes that Amazon does not support any single candidate or party.

"We're trying to take the friction out of grass-roots contributions to presidential candidates," read a statement on the site.

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Duly Quoted

"Sen. John Kerry today released his plan to eliminate the deficit. He says all we have to do is find a really rich country like Switzerland, and marry her." -- Jay Leno, on NBC's "Tonight Show" Friday, referring to Kerry's wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, and her $600-million inheritance.

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Compiled from staff, Web and wire reports by Times staff researcher Susannah Rosenblatt.

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