On The Road With The Obama Campaign

60 Minutes' Maria Gavrilovic Looks Back At Covering The Obama Campaign

Maria Gavrilovic is an associate producer at 60 Minutes and was CBS News' embedded reporter for Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign.

She began covering the Obama campaign in September, 2007 and remained on the trail through the election. Maria contributed to the CBS News 'On the Road' political blog for the duration of the campaign. Here is a behind the scenes look at Obama's campaign trip to Europe and the Middle East she wrote in July 2008.


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Barack Obama's whirlwind trip to the Middle East and Europe was full of packed schedules, little sleep, and a cast of captivating international leaders. This was his first time abroad since announcing his run for the presidency. What did he learn?

1.) King Abdullah is a gracious host.

The 46-year-old King of Jordan "bent over backwards," according to the campaign, to meet up with Obama during his day trip to Jordan. Abdullah returned early from Aspen in order to attend the one on one meeting with Obama, and even hosted a formal palace dinner at the Beit Al Urdan complex. Obama later arrived at the airport for a flight to Israel in a dark Mercedes Benz driven by the King. "It's a pretty smooth ride," Obama told CNN.


2.) Don't leave a note at the Western Wall if you are running for president.

On just a few hours of sleep, Obama paid a pre-dawn visit to Jerusalem's Western Wall where he placed a written prayer between stones. Thousands of visitors leave similar notes but rarely is one tampered with. Obama's note, on the other hand, was allegedly taken from the wall and published by Israeli newspapers. The campaign would not confirm or deny that the note was legitimate, but Shmeul Rabinovitz, the rabbi in charge of the Western Wall condemned the incident as an intrusion on Obama's relationship with God.


3.) It's hard to go to the gym in Berlin.

After learning that the gym at his Berlin hotel was under partial construction, Obama opted to work out at the nearby Ritz Carlton. But, as word of his whereabouts got out, the German press and onlookers quickly gathered outside the hotel gym. One overzealous German reporter actually posed as a gym-goer in order to catch a first hand account the presumptive nominee's work out. She wrote a minute by minute account of Obama's work out, even noting "wow, he didn't even sweat! WHAT A MAN!"


4.) Sarkozy loves everything American.

When he ran for President of France in 2007, Nicolas Sarkozy had to tone down his pro-American rhetoric in order to be elected. But at press conference in the Elysee Palace, Sarkozy showed nothing but admiration for Obama. He told his guest the French were following the U.S. election "with passion" and even drew similarities between their respective candidacies.

"Not everyone here is called Sarkozy," he said, "I'm fully aware not everyone is called Obama in the United States." Sarko's energy and charisma at the presser even prompted Obama to ask him what he eats "so that I can find out how I can always have as much energy."


5.) Private conversations are not always private.

The press did not see much of Obama's meeting with Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who was enduring his own political turmoil, but caught a glimpse of a potential budding relationship with conservative opposition leader, David Cameron. While trading casual advice, the two men appear to "get each other," at least when it comes to the need for rest.

"You should be on the beach... You need a break," Cameron told Obama in an off mic conversation. "You need to be able to keep your head together... Do you have a break at all?"

"The most important thing you need to do is to have big chunks of time during the day when all you're doing is thinking," Obama said. Otherwise, he added, "you start making mistakes or you lose the big picture."

The pair did not realize that their conversation was caught on mic.

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