The Real Rybak: A reporter's notebook in Iowa [VIDEO]
In this week's cover story, we followed Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak around for several weeks to document the day-to-day life of a city politician marking his tenth year in office.
Along the way, we traveled to Des Moines, Iowa, ahead of the January 3 caucus to witness Rybak in his role as vice chair of the Democratic National Committee and official Obama-booster.
After the jump, a closer look as Rybak raced from one interview to another, trying to cut Republican presidential hopeful and current frontrunner Mitt Romney down to size.
We pick up where the cover story left off -- 12:30 p.m. "Andrea Mitchell Reports":
After he wraps with MSNBC, Rybak heads from Des Moines to the small college town of Ames, about 20 minutes north. He calls out various observations from the passenger seat of his DNC staffer's rental car.
Rybak pulls out his iPad and flicks through his emails as communications director John Stiles tries to help him strategize his next meeting - an interview with an Ames Tribune writer.
"This is perfect for your whole Midwest values thing," says Stiles, who's taken a personal vacation day to follow the mayor around for this non-city business. "'What we want is someone to look us in the eye and tell us the truth.'"
"Hm," Rybak murmurs, reading off his iPad. "A million more cars are being sold this year than last year."
After several blocks of fast food joints, tire shops and check cashing storefronts, the car turns down a quaint stretch of old downtown Ames. Rybak bounds out of the car, remarking on the unseasonable warmth, still pointing out every novelty he sees.
"Remind me what we're doing," he finally says to Stiles. The meeting with the Ames Tribune reporter. Right.
When Rybak was stumping in Iowa four years ago, it was still a nail biter contest between Obama and Hillary Clinton. The temperatures were freezing and every stop on the way felt like a new battleground. Rybak was charging into campaign offices all over the state trying to invigorate tired volunteers.
This trip - the balmy weather, the comedy of errors in the Republican field - has a distinctly lazier feel.
Inside a coffee shop, the Ames reporter takes down Rybak's arguments against a Tribune endorsement of Romney. The ex-Massachusetts governor is addressing the editorial board in a couple of hours. Rybak vigorously defends health care reform and the economic policies of the Obama administration.
"The president stepped in and took a very controversial step," he says of the auto industry bail out. "And one million more cars have been sold than the year before."
After the CSPAN appearance (click here to watch the video) and a pep talk to some Obama volunteers at the Ames Public Library ("Thank you for being on the front lines. Keep building the base," he tells them), Rybak finds out that Mitt Romney's gigantic tour bus is parked outside of the Tribune offices and insists that they drive past. The car swings around a corner and the massive red, white and blue bus comes into view. Rybak, with the furtiveness of a highschooler about to egg a house, throws on his suit coat.
"I don't want to be a dick," he says. "I just want a picture."
He thrusts his hands into his pockets and grins wide under the 'MN' in 'ROMNEY' along the side, while Stiles snaps a photo with his iPhone. Grinning, the two run back to the car and jump in. Some bewildered-looking Romney supporters watch as the car peels out.
"This has a definite road trip quality to it," says Rybak.
The caravan speeds back to Des Moines where the mayor is due to appear on a four-way split screen on the Ed Schultz show. When the car exits the freeway, it passes under a sign pointing the way to a Pennsylvania Avenue.
Rybak mutters, almost to himself, "This is as close as Romney's going to get to Pennsylvania Avenue."
Rybak's final engagement of the evening is an appearance on Ed Schultz. Below, see how the piece aired on MSNBC:
COVER STORY: The Real R.T. Rybak