Campaign Coverage '08: Behind The Cameras

A year ago today Barack Obama was a presidential long shot, and John McCain looked like an also-ran. Covering the twists and turns of the campaign for CBS News since those early days were a pair of what television news professionals call "off air reporters." CBS News "on air reporter" Jeff Glor talked to producers Maria Gavrilovic and John Bentley about the year that was.

"I expected to be out for just a couple of months," says Gavrilovic, who began covering Barack Obama 14 months ago, back in Sept. 2007

"When you're doing something like this is there room to follow sports, TV shows, whatever else?" asked Glor.

"Absolutely not," says Bentley, who covered the McCain campaign from the end of the primary season through Election Day.

"You're whole life, 24-hours-a-day-7-days-a-week is the candidate you're covering. You become an expert in John McCain or Barack Obama, but anything that was in your life before that is just pushed aside."

"You were in Germany and I guess in a number of places in Europe and the Middle East when President-elect Obama went, how unusual was that?" Glor asked Gavrilovich.

"It was amazing to see the enormous crowds," Gavrilovic says. "The crowd in Berlin - 200,000 people came to here him speak then, and that was his biggest crowd ever.

"And just to see enthusiasm and the people gathered at hotels and restaurants that he went to, even at the airport, holding American flags."

"When Obama was in Europe the McCain campaign sort of responded with humor," says Bentley. "One of the things they did while he was over there, McCain went to Sturgis, which is this huge motorcycle rally every year.

"A couple hundred thousand Berliners just made a lot of noise for my opponent," McCain told the bikers. "I'll take the roar of 50,000 Harleys any day."

"You got to see a different John McCain, especially at the end, than the John McCain that a lot of people saw in 2000," Bentley says. "There was a lockdown, really, in terms of press availability.

"When he won in the primaries he would have us all in the back of his Straight Talk Express, his bus. He would talk literally for hours to reporters.

"Then around July, they had a new campaign manager in and McCain was sequestered. And toward the last few months of the campaign, he very, very rarely - I think there were two press conferences with his national press corps. When you don't have a chance to talk to them that makes it very rough for us to do our jobs."

"What was the most surprising - or most surprised you - about being inside the bubble that you didn't expect?" Glor asked Gavrilovic.

"When you're in the bubble, you are cut off from the rest of the world," Gavrilovic says. "You're listening to his speeches and doing what you have to do and that's it. You are cut off from reality."

"Toward the end how many hours of sleep a night were you averaging?" Glor asked.

"Very few," Bentley said. "The day before election day, Nov. 3, we started in Miami, Fla. At 5:30 a.m., did seven states in one day, and ended up in Phoenix at 4 a.m. Eastern Time. Then we got up on Election Day, and he went and campaigned, did a couple more stops in Colorado and New Mexico, before coming back home to Phoenix. It was exhausting, it was exhilarating, but it was pretty grueling as well."

"Even though you get three or four hours sleeps for months at a time, you have this adrenaline that you feel every single day," says Gavrilovic. "There's a lot of pressure to break news and to be on top of news. But the adrenaline keeps you going."
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