C-SPAN rolled out its revamped Campaign 2008 Bus last week, hitting the road for its “Road to the White House” tour and kicking off the station’s campaign coverage.
The bus started out in Columbus, Ohio, and will make its way to key primary and caucus states, talking to voters and experts and following candidates on the campaign trail.
“This is a historic election where there is no clear frontrunner,” said Steve Scully, political editor at C-SPAN. “The bus gives us a presence in some of these early states.”
The bus made its first stop in Iowa, where the network officially launched the tour with a live airing of “Road to the White House” on Jan. 21. The show included commentary from Des Moines Register political columnist Dave Yepsen and two former chairmen from the state’s Democratic and Republican parties. The experts discussed the role of the Iowa caucuses and viewers called in with their questions and commentary on the presidential race.
“Some say that we’re still far from elections, but in reality we’re now in the invisible primaries where candidates are honing their message and looking at how they’re going to position themselves,” Scully said. “This is a very important part of the process and historically, [C-SPAN] has done the best to showcase that.”
The kickoff program was aired on the day exactly two years from the next presidential inauguration and less than a year from the critical Iowa caucuses.
Up until Inauguration Day, the bus will travel all over the country, making stops in other battleground states, from Illinois to South Carolina.
Aside from functioning as a studio for the network’s programs and for coverage of key political events, the campaign bus also will visit local schools.
“There’s a whole new generation who are into iPods and are tech savvy, and we want to make sure they will appreciate and become immersed in politics,” Scully said.
The bus transforms from a studio to a classroom where students can participate in tours of the interior and look at clips of important debates and speeches. Students also get to see firsthand how C-SPAN covers presidential elections.
“The bus shows C-SPAN’s overall commitment to campaign 2008,” Scully said. “It is used for programming, used to conduct interviews with political operatives, volunteers and voters and used as an educational tool to let people know how politics work.”
C-SPAN’s bus program began in 1993 with the network’s yellow School Bus that traveled around the country specifically for educational and community outreach. The 45-foot-long mobile production studio spends most of the year on the road and has visited about 1,500 students at hundreds of schools in the past 15 months. The School Bus also was periodically used to cover campaign-related events, but this year, the network transformed the vehicle into the Campaign 2008 bus.
“It’s really all about using the bus to promote political programming … how it can be a resource to the general public,” said Jennifer Moire, a media relations manager at C-SPAN.
The revamped bus sports a new wrap with election emblems. Inside, there is a new couch, flooring, plasma television set, robotic cameras and a high-tech control room and interview set for hosting live and taped studio productions.
“The beauty of the bus is that it can go just about anywhere in a minimal amount of time,” Scully said. “It becomes a studio and then it can be transformed to a place were students can go inside … In today’s day in age, you want to be fast, quick, mobile and nimble.”