On the buses: Presidential hopefuls hit the roads

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Obama's Coach Force One joins a tradition of US campaigning

Parked in downtown Des Moines, Iowa, on Sunday morning was shiny confirmation that Governor Rick Perry of Texas was running for president, just as he had told us 24 hours before in South Carolina. It was his bus, a pretty nice toy, half in jet black, awaiting his arrival later in the day.

A battle bus is the must-have for a candidate for the White House. Thomas Dewey briefly wooed voters from a wheezing charabanc back in 1948; Ronald Reagan went Greyhound in 1980. But it was Bill Clinton who triumphantly left his nominating convention in New York in 1992 on board a bus that put the steering wheel at the heart of American campaigning.

Today the start of election season means the revving up of more single-deckers than a National Express depot. No candidate can be seen without one in campaign livery, some even before they have declared. Even Sarah Palin had wheels in Des Moines at the weekend – her "One Nation" coach – emblazoned with the Liberty Bell and script from the Constitution.

The nostalgic image of cross-country campaigning in the US, of course, is of the whistle-stop train. The most famous carriage, its back platform festooned in bunting, was the Ferdinand Magellan, especially for presidents seeking re-election. It was from the back of the Magellan that Truman famously held up the erroneous cover of the Chicago Daily Tribune, "Dewey Defeats Truman", in St Louis the day after voting in 1948.

The days of the train as a campaign-conveyance are now officially done. On Monday, America was introduced for the first time to the brand new presidential coach currently bearing President Barack Obama on his three-state tour of the Midwest. Call it Coach Force One. Since it's an official vehicle, it's jet black, without campaign logos, and enters an impressive roster of presidential transport.

Air Force One – officially whatever aircraft is carrying the president, but more often simply used to refer to the jumbo in which he most often travels - has long served as the most potent symbol of the American presidency beyond the White House. The first jet version, a modified Boeing 707, was delivered to President Dwight Eisenhower and served Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Carter and Reagan, whose administration placed the order for the two 747 wide-body jets that carry the commander-in-chief now. They are due to be replaced by 2017, either with 747-8s or possibly the 787 Dreamliner that is soon to come into service.

Then there is the presidential Cadillac and Barack Obama got a new one when he took office. Dubbed The Beast because of all the armour-plating and bullet-proof glass, it goes with him everywhere he goes when road travel is foreseen. Marine One, the presidential helicopter, is also a familiar sight. But until now there has been no presidential bus.

It is the Secret Service, it turns out, that ordered not one but two of the buses, one of which was wending its way into Iowa yesterday. The price tag was steep – $1.1m for each one assembled by the Hemphill Brothers Coach Company of Whites Creek, Tennessee – but necessary, officials contend, because it comes with the same security features as The Beast as well as much of the communications trickery found on Air Force One. It features windows and armour plating sufficient to repel a rocket propelled grenade.

For those charged with keeping the president safe, they have come none too soon. "We've been overdue for having this asset in our protective fleet," Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan noted. Recalling that first three-axle outing by Reagan, he added: "We've been protecting presidential candidates and vice-presidential candidates all the way back to the 1980s using buses during bus tours."

Certainly they will provide a fancier and safer ride. President Reagan's bus featured nothing more than a table near the front with seats facing it from each side where he and Nancy could sit down for interviews. The buses used by Mr Clinton in 1992 had no outside adornments beyond the symbol of Peter Pan, the company it was leased from. Inside, his bus was little different from the press bus.

The new fleet – the second new bus will be made available to whoever secures the Republican nomination next year – is certainly less visually diverting than those of the challengers. John McCain did most to turn bus into brand with his Straight Talk Express in 2008, which as well as bright exterior livery featured a plush interior with curving couches and space to erect a rolling TV studio.

The result is a presidential bus that is almost sinister, the only colour coming from its red and blue flashing hazard lights. "If I saw that thing, I'd drive right off the road, get out my car, and beg the Lord for mercy," notes Keith Koffler, a veteran White House reporter who runs a blog, WhiteHouseDossier.com. "I fully expect Obama to get off the bus and instead of kissing babies say to them, 'Luke, I am your father'."

Sport
Mourinho lost his temper as well as the match
sportLiverpool handed title boost as Sunderland smash manager’s 77-game home league run
Voices
Sweet tweet: Victoria Beckham’s selfie, taken on her 40th birthday on Thursday
voices... and her career-long attack on the absurd criteria by which we define our 'betters', by Ellen E Jones
Arts & Entertainment
Billie Jean King, who won the women’s Wimbledon title in 1967, when the first colour pictures were broadcast
tv
News
Snow has no plans to step back or reduce his workload
mediaIt's 25 years since Jon Snow first presented Channel 4 News, and his drive shows no sign of diminishing
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Life & Style
food + drinkWhat’s not to like?
Voices
Clock off: France has had a 35‑hour working week since 1999
voicesThere's no truth to a law banning work emails after 6pm, but that didn’t stop media hysteria
Arts & Entertainment
Maisie Williams of Game of Thrones now
tvMajor roles that grow with their child actors are helping them to steal the show on TV
Life & Style
Lana Del Rey, Alexa Chung and Cara Delevingne each carry their signature bag
fashionMulberry's decision to go for the super-rich backfired dramatically
Arts & Entertainment
Kingdom Tower
architecture
Life & Style
Sampling wine in Turin
food + drink...and abstaining may be worse than drinking too much, says scientist
Arts & Entertainment
Game of Thrones writer George R.R. Martin has been working on the novels since the mid-Nineties
books
News
Easter a dangerous time for dogs
these are the new ones. Old ones are below them... news
News
Brand said he
people
Voices
Actor Zac Efron
voicesTopless men? It's as bad as Page 3, says Howard Jacobson
Sport
Roger Federer celebrates his victory over Novak Djokovic in the Monte Carlo Masters
sport
Arts & Entertainment
The monster rears its head as it roars into the sky
film
Voices
For the Love of God (2007) The diamond-encrusted skull that divided the art world failed to sell for
its $100m asking price. It was eventually bought by a consortium
which included the artist himself.
voicesYou can shove it, Mr Webb – I'll be having fun until the day I die, says Janet Street-Porter
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Apprentice IT Technician

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

Sales Associate Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit