CAMPAIGN '88 : Travails on the Trail

Reporters seeking to explain a candidate's popularity often resurrect moldy cliches such as "well-oiled juggernaut" or "finely tuned machine" to describe his campaign apparatus. The success of the Democratic front-runner in Iowa, Gephardt, demands some other explanation.

In the first hour of an Iowa swing last week, state troopers pulled over three Gephardt motorcade vehicles and cited them for speeding. One of the ticketed drivers, a campaign worker ferrying the national press corps from stop to stop, then got lost for an hour, missing Gephardt's first speech and lunch.

Embarrassed aides hustled the van to Des Moines and loaded reporters on a plane to St. Louis, where Gephardt was addressing a hometown rally. Unfortunately, they arrived after Gephardt had left by helicopter for another affair. The press was hustled back to the St. Louis airport, but the police escort got lost on the way.

Gephardt staffers vowed to make it up, and when the press arrived in frigid Davenport, Iowa, at lunchtime the next day, local Democrats had steaming bowls of chili and hot coffee waiting for them.

Three reporters and a campaign staffer fell ill with food poisoning six hours later. They stayed sick for the next 24 hours.

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