Trading suits for sandals in search of offshore investments in Bermuda. Risking cholesterol counts to sample fried butter on a stick. A hotel work out with a vice presidential candidate. More airport layovers, middle seats and eating (or more likely not) on-the-run than any one would care to remember.
In the last year and half, NPR's Washington and Election teams have canvassed the United States countless times over to report on the 2012 presidential election – producing dozens of hours of stories, live coverage, breaking news, interviews, chats and blogs. It's a monumental quadrennial task – and we're all better informed because of it.
Heading into the home stretch, we caught up with these very busy and well-traveled journalists to revisit a small sampling of the memorable moments that shaped NPR's coverage. Build your playlist: all are worth hearing again.
Don Gonyea, National Political Correspondent
Reports mentioning Iowa since May 2011: 100
National Political Correspondent Don Gonyea has spent more time in Iowa during this campaign than any other state, with Ohio (where he'll be election night) as a runner-up. Here, he reports on Mitt Romney's first campaign swing into the fabled state; later reports would detail the GOP presidential candidates' attempts to woo Iowans, both campaigns' early voting efforts and of course plenty of corn.
Brian Naylor, Washington Correspondent
Time spent watching campaign ads this election: 10 hours
NPR has kept a close watch on the unprecedented ad money pouring into this election: from the negative focus of the Political Ad Wars, particularly in certain swing communities, to the Million-Dollar Donors plopping down seven-figures to support their candidate. This report from the heat of the Republican primary race analyzed various campaign data to show Romney's dominance in political ad spending over his rivals – both by his campaign, and more largely by the superPAC backing him.
Scott Horsley, White House Correspondent
Days on the road with the Obama campaign: Dozens
In the election-long Parallel Lives series, NPR charted the many surprising similarities between Obama and Romney: both men attended Harvard and elite prep schools; both have been heavily influenced by their churches; both had at-one-time similar healthcare beliefs. The series kicked off with a look at both candidates' failed first campaigns: Romney unsuccessfully campaigned to unseat the late Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy in Massachusetts in 1994; Obama lost a bid for Rep. Bobby Rush's (D-IL) congressional seat in 2000.
Peter Overby, Power, Money and Influence Correspondent
Total dollars mentioned in this story: $66 Million
How much does money influence politics? This election, Peter Overby has helped Follow the Money flowing from superPACs, million-dollar donors and interest groups.
In June, he reported on the emergence of secret donors despite the Supreme Court's call for disclosure in its controversial Citizens United ruling two years ago.
David Welna, Congressional Correspondent
Pairs of Bermuda shorts owned: Zero
Trading the halls of Congress for the pink sands of the Caribbean, David Welna investigated the investment account Mitt Romney set up there 15 years ago – and what advantages may exist. The only reporter to track down the file for the funds, named Sankaty, Welna reported: "For a $20 fee, you can check out the documents that established Romney's own corporation at Bermuda's Registrar of Companies. The folder is slim — just 10 pages. Romney's name does not appear anywhere."
Arnie Seipel, Logistics Coordinator, Elections Unit
Number of hotel nights booked for national conventions: 343
After months of planning, Arnie Seipel arrived in Tampa, FL, five days before the scheduled start of the Republican National Convention to set up NPR's temporary workspaces and broadcast studios. Plenty of time soon turned into crunch-time, when the path of Hurricane Issac shifted toward Florida. All of our convention efforts transformed immediately (and seamlessly) into a storm response – getting staff to the RNC safely, reassigning some to hurricane coverage, stocking up on food, batteries and supplies. And extra galoshes.
Mara Liasson, National Political Correspondent
Presidential campaigns covered, including 2012: Six
In the early morning hours of the Republican and Democratic National Conventions, after the last delegate had left the convention floor, work was just beginning for Mara Liasson. Each morning at 5 a.m., our lead political correspondent offered inspired reports and recaps of the late evening events for Morning Edition – detailing what was said (and perhaps more tellingly, what wasn't), what was likely to win over voters and what fell flat.
Ari Shapiro, White House Correspondent
Photos out plane windows tweeted last month: 17
In a two-part report, Ari Shapiro took a deep dive into political ads in second-tier media markets: the unparalleled spending, the hyper-focused reach, the impact (or lack?) on swaying swing voters. Research exclusive to NPR showed spending in Colorado Springs three times what it was in 2008. The same is true of second-tier media markets across the country, like Dayton (three-fold increase from four years ago) and Richmond, which has increased tenfold.
Debbie Elliot, National Desk Correspondent
Total swing state cities and towns visited this election: 19
Swing is "in," and Debbie Elliott, based in Alabama, has traveled to many swing states to report on this election. She recently spent time along Florida's I-4 corridor to meet and talk with independent and undecided voters about their campaign impressions. A recurring theme in these battle-weary-grounds: the deluge of ads. As one voter puts it: "I don't believe anything that they say. I just think they're telling me what they think I want to hear."