Campaign Collections: NPR Election Team Finds From The Races

Dec 24, 2012
Originally published on December 24, 2012 8:08 am

Whether it's their first election cycle with NPR or their tenth, the Washington Desk reporters, producers and staffers have many opportunities to collect memorabilia and unique items from various campaign events while they are traveling across the country reporting on elections. But with all of the buttons, knick-knacks, and posters, how do they decide what to take?

Get the story straight from our Washington Desk staff who tell about their best finds from this 2012 campaign season and past election cycles, and what they look for when selecting a memento from the campaign trail. Match the stories below with items pictured above.

1. NPR White House Correspondent Scott Horsley does a fair bit of traveling, and being on the road for days or weeks at a time, he only takes an item if it fits two criteria: it's really good and quite small. These "Grits for Mitt" are from Spartanburg, South Carolina, where a man was handing them out at an event at Wofford College during the primary season. Although Horsley didn't have much extra room in his baggage, when he saw this he had to take it.

"Come on, Grits for Mitt. It wasn't like I had to think about it," he said.

2. Veteran NPR reporter Don Gonyea is one of the most avid political memorabilia collectors in the office. Among the many niche-marketed posters our national political correspondent collected during the 2012 election, his "Somali Americans for Obama" poster from Columbus, Ohio, is the most micro-targeted campaign poster he has.

Another sign in Gonyea's collection reads "Coal Country for Romney," one he picked up in Steubenville, Ohio, a coal-industry town that went for Romney in 2012.

3. Although he's been at NPR for nine years, Brakkton Booker, an associate producer on the Washington Desk, covered his first election this year. So while at the Republican National Convention, he wanted to make sure to grab something that made it clear where it was from and was small enough to fit in his pocket (he was constantly running around collecting audio and tape throughout the trip). This RNC bottle opener fit the ticket - it was small and light, said Tampa Bay, and, in his words - "It was shiny."

The down side: he was too busy to actually use it. "I don't think I even had a drink in Tampa," Booker said.

4. Arnie Seipel managed the logistics for the Elections team this year and was able to save a lot of memorabilia from his inaugural election cycle with NPR. This credential badge from this year's RNC is significant, because Seipel never had a chance to use it.

Seipel had been meticulously planning every detail of the convention trip for the NPR staff and journalists that would be there, but all of that forethought went out the window when the first day of the RNC was cancelled due to Tropical Storm Isaac (which ironically never actually hit Tampa). Instead of making sure everyone was properly credentialed and everything was running smoothly, he had to switch gears and make sure there was plenty of water and rain boots for everyone.

5. Talk of the Nation Editorial Assistant Natalie Friedman-Winston was also a first-timer with the Elections team this year. She wanted to keep everything from the trip because, "Who knows if I'll get the opportunity to work on election coverage again?" she said.

This press pass from the Democratic National Convention is ironically from an event that also never happened - one planned at the Bank of America Auditorium in Charlotte.

6. This "Hillary Clinton Barf Bag" was produced by a public advocacy group for the 2007 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) that Washington Desk Producer Evie Stone was given during her travels this year. While the slogan on the bag reads "Socialized Medicine makes me Sick!" and is meant to be anti-Clinton propaganda from her '08 presidential run, someone stuck a "Mitt '08" sticker on it.

The hastiness in which these ideas were married creates a complete mix of political irony and really, "it's just kind of a bummer," puts Stone. She didn't collect this perhaps one-of-a-kind token herself; NPR's Scott Horsely picked it up for her, which she says makes her enjoy it that much more.

7. NPR Political Junkie Ken Rudin is known for his extensive collection of political buttons (between 60-70,000 in all). When he was young, Rudin would write to politicians to tell them he was a young collector and ask if they would send him a button. Now his friends and other reporters know he's on the lookout for good and rare campaign buttons to add to the collection. These six buttons he says, "all tell a little story and all have an interesting wrinkle":

Elizabeth (Tizzy) Brown is a fall 2012 intern on the NPR Washington Desk.

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