THURMAN Lila Harrington visits her daughter in Iowa as often she can, but her most recent trip brought her up close and personal with some presidential types.
Harrington, who lives in Thurman, happened to be spending a couple of weeks with her daughter, Leslie (Silva) Saftig in Ames, Ia. when they realized it was almost time for the annual Straw Poll festivities.
I decided to stay an extra week, Harrington said. So Leslie and I traveled around to see the candidates.
The two personally met and chatted with Mitt Romney, Barack Obama, Rudy Guiliani, Mike Huckabee, Sam Brownback and Tommy Thompson.
During her stay, the annual RAGBRAI Ride took place, in which her son-in-law, Dan, and grandson, Andy, rode a tandem bike. The RAGBRAI is an acronym for the (Des Moines) Registers Annual Bike Ride Across Iowa, and it is a benefit for the Cancer Society. The ride is a week long and covers 477 miles.
Lance Armstrong was there riding, too, she said. They close all the roads across the state, and there were 20,000 riders.
Meanwhile, Harrington and her daughter traveled from site to site to visit with presidential candidates.
Mitt Romney is so charismatic, good looking and I agreed with ll of his platform, she said. I was so bowled over by him, he looked right at me and I almost melted into the floor.
Barack Obama was at a farm, standing in front of a large white barn with an American flag on it and next to a huge field of corn.
He answered our questions after his speech, she said. She was disappointed that her camera ran out of film as they conversed with Obama so she didnt get many good photos.
After that, we drove across the state to pick up Dan and Andy after the RAGBRAI race, she said. It was a beautiful ride through miles nd miles of fields of soybeans. After the two riders did the traditional dipping of their bikes in the Mississippi River, they all returned home to Ames.
Rudy Guiliani was at a private home of a friend of her daughters, so they were invited to the reception.
He is a very candid kind of guy, Harrington said. He looked us right in the eye when we talked with him, and answered all of our questions.
Harrington said that her son-in-law told her she was fickle.
Every day I came home with a different button or sticker for different candidate, she said.
They met Huckabee on the lawn of small town Boone Court House, and Harrington was smitten with him as well.
Leslie had lots of questions for him, and he has a platform similar to Romneys, she said. On Straw Poll day, he played guitar with a well-known band, Capital Offense.
The two met Brownback in a local winery, and Thompson during the Straw Poll festivities.
All of the candidates willingly posed for pictures and gave autographs, Harrington said. Ive never been a political pundit or serious about learning platforms before, so this was tremendously exciting.
The culmination of these visits occurred in Ames on Straw Poll Day, Aug. 11, on the campus of Iowa State University. Each candidate made a 15-minute speech, and each had a large tent on the grounds with campaign materials.
They spent quite a bit of time at Huckabees tent, as he played with the band.
Huckabee has a droll sense of humor, captivating the crowds with his self-deprecating jokes and manner, Harrington said. I liked him a lot too.
She said that she got a feeling for what the main platforms were for the candidates, and based on what is important to her, she decided that Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee addressed them to her satisfaction.
Family is very important to me, she said. And so is national security and health care.
The experience left Harrington very happy.
I havent been as excited about anything like this for a long time, she said.