Joe's Roadtrip

Following previous years’ journeys from New York to Los Angeles and from Texas to Iowa, Joe Klein has once again hit the road to find out what people are thinking outside the Beltway. This time he’s traveling up the East Coast from North Carolina, across the Rust Belt and winding up in Minnesota—though, in true road trip fashion, the route could always change.

Along the way he’s meeting with politicians and community leaders, as well as readers who have invited him into their homes and businesses to talk about how they’re faring in these difficult times. And a few special guests are joining Joe as he meanders through the Heartland.

Check in here often for our Google Map “Joe Tracker,” Joe’s daily dispatches, periodic video updates and even Joe’s latest favorite driving songs.

Latest Posts

2012 Road Trip Day 20: The Incredible Morgan Mohr

Terre Haute, Indiana

In the weeks before this year’s road trip, I received the following from a high school senior in Kokomo, Indiana:


2012 Road Trip: This Week’s Print Column

An assessment of the presidential campaign from the ground up in Ohio and Michigan.

2012 Road Trip, Day 20: An End of the Road Playlist

Hammond, Indiana

Well, we’re coming to the end of this thing. I’ve done 40 town meetings, more or less, in 20 days. It’s been great fun and I’ll have more to say about the things I’ve learned in the days and weeks to come. For now, though, after three weeks on the road, a last playlist:

2012 Road Trip, Day 18: Neighborhood Watch

Lansing, Michigan

The neighbors started by apologizing. Their group was smaller than expected because some had run off to the state capitol, where they were rallying for a state legislator — who had been evicted for using …

2012 Road Trip: Travels with Ry

Dayton, Ohio

I’d like to introduce Jacob Templin’s video of the legendary guitarist Ry Cooder playing music with a brilliant, but largely unknown fiddle and banjo player named Dan Gellert in Dayton on Day 13 of my road trip, …

2012 Road Trip, Day 18: Among the Academics

East Lansing, Michigan

I had a really interesting lunch today with a group of geography professors on the faculty of Michigan State University. These were very smart people and they had a lot of interesting things to say about …

2012 Road Trip Day 17: Can We Get Along?

Grand Haven, Michigan

On the day Rodney King was found dead in his swimming pool, I met with two diametrically opposed groups–members of the Tea Party in Kalamazoo and of a civil discussion association, composed predominantly …

2012 Road Trip, Day 16: A Big Problem for Republicans

Brighton, Michigan

On my first road trip two years ago, I stopped here to meet with a group of first responders–police officers, firefighters and EMT workers. It turned out to be one of the most memorable meetings I’ve ever …

2012 Road Trip, Day 16: Citizenship Ain’t Easy

Toledo, Ohio

Mary and Meghan McVey were married in May, at Niagara Falls. They’ve been together for 11 years and are raising three children, including one with severe learning disabilities. They’ve had some tough times as …

2012 Road Trip: More on the Veterans Administration

Brighton, Michigan

The New York Times has picked up on a theme that has emerged on my road trip: the incompetence of the Veterans Administration. At a time when we’re averaging a military suicide each day, you have to wonder not just where is VA Secretary Eric Shinseki (once again, not quoted in the Times piece). He should be on the …

2012 Road Trip Day 15: Force of Nature

Columbus, Ohio

“I used to go to major league baseball games wearing my little league uniform,” Ohio’s Governor John Kasich said, settling down after berating me for the “bone-headed” piece I’d written about him two years ago. …

2012 Road Trip Day 15: How Pollsters Work

Columbus, Ohio

We’re heading to Michigan tomorrow and this is a very smart analysis of the skewed results of recent polling there and the problems with polling in general. Note the response rate to telephone polling–4%. Hmmm. My own rule is to believe the results when they’re weighted overwhelmingly one way or the other, but to …

2012 Road Trip, Day 14: What Makes A Good Candidate?

Columbus, Ohio

I have seen approximately 263,547 candidates perform in public during my eons as a political reporter. You can tell the good ones immediately. They’re not all the same–but each of the stars has a quality that …

2012 Road Trip Day 13: Why Can’t Government Get the Easy Stuff Right?

Dayton, Ohio

Well, the big event yesterday was watching the great Ry Cooder jamming with one of his discoveries, a retired meter reader named Dan Gellert–a brilliant country fiddler and banjo player–at the Trolley Stop in …

2012 Road Trip: This Week’s Print Column

Columbus, Ohio

In this week’s print column I take a look at the common question among Democratic audiences–“Why don’t the middle and working classes vote their economic self-interest?”–from the perspective of the working poor and unemployed living in Southeastern Ohio.

Road Trip 2012, Day 12: Partisans

Brook Park, Ohio and Columbus, Ohio

I spent yesterday with two groups of partisans—union workers in Cleveland who met with Democratic Congresswoman Betty Sutton. And later, I met with college-age Romney volunteers at the campaign’s Ohio headquarters in Columbus. TIME’s Jacob Templin provided the video:

Krauthammer and Reagan

Columbus, Ohio

A break from the road trip for one small quibble with Charles Krauthammer: he has now completely abandoned any intellectual integrity he may have had and joined the cult of Reagan mythmaking. Reagan did some fine things as president, like challenging and then negotiating with the “Evil Empire.” But he did not govern as …

2012 Road Trip, Day 11: Playlist…and A Few Announcements

Cleveland, Ohio

Well, we’ve hit the halfway point of this road trip, and we’re about to have some fun. Ry Cooder, the great American musician, music historian and slide-guitar genius is joining the trip for a few days, starting tomorrow.

2012 Road Trip, Day 10: Coming Apart and Coming Together

Jackson, Ohio

A few months ago, Charles Murray published a book called Coming Apart that focused on the problems of an emerging white underclass, which was beginning to show many of the same behavior patterns as the black …

2012 Road Trip, Day 9: Playlist

1. “Hurtin’ Me, Hurtin’ You”–Steve Earle

2. “Sylvia Plath”–Ryan Adams

3. “Dance Yrself Clean”–LCD Soundsystem

4. “Two-Faced Love”–Del McCoury (a great cover of the Richard Thompson song)

5. “Plenty Good Lovin'”–Sam Moore (of Sam and Dave, one of the great soul voices)

2012 Road Trip Day 9: A Gentle Man

Elizabeth, Pa.

Jim Davidson has followed a curious career arc, from cab driver to journalist to Presbyterian minister. Before that, he went to Harvard on a full scholarship and graduated in 1969. He’s the son of a Cleveland …

2012 Road Trip, Day 7: Playlist

On the drive through Pennsylvania–

1. “Why Must We Die?”–The McGarrigle Sisters

2. “Making Flippy Floppy”–Talking Heads

3. “Walk Like A Man”–Bruce Springsteen

4. “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again”–Bob Dylan

5. “Moons of Jupiter”–Sonia Dada

2012 Road Trip, Day 7: Courage in the Red Zone

Red Lion, Pa.

I met Marlene Miller-Dyke in 1984. She was teaching health and coaching the girl’s swim team at Red Lion High School in south central Pennsylvania. James Carville once said that politically the state of …

2012 Road Trip, Day 7: Latest Column

Some of the things I’ve learned over the first week on the road.

2012 Road Trip, Day 6: Battle of Gettysburg for Inner-City School Reform

Philadelphia, Pa

John DiIulio is one of my heroes. He is a major league academic, a University of Pennsylvania political scientist, co-author with the late James Q. Wilson of American Government, an essential college text. And …

Road Trip Day 6: A Few Political Notes

Philadelphia, Pa

I am absolved of having to be a TV news junkie on the road. I don’t even have much time, sadly, for the morning papers…and I’m feeling the need for my daily Andrew Sullivan and Ezra Klein blogosphere fixes. But some things do get through. Apparently, they had an election in Wisconsin last night. And the …

2012 Road Trip, Day 4: The End of the Rainbow

Fredericksburg, Va.

You see some amazing things on the road, even on the Interstate. Yesterday, photographer Andrew Hinderaker and I were driving along I-64, from Charlottesville to Richmond. There was sun behind us and a …

Road Music: the Day 4 Playlist

1. “The Poet Game” by Greg Brown (sung by Ani DiFranco)–Greg Brown is about as brilliant an American songwriter as we have, but I didn’t know that–sorry Greg–until I heard his songs sung by other people, especially the women compiled on Going Driftless, an absolutely transcendent album of Greg Brown covers. He’s also married, last I …

Road Trip 2012, Day 3/4: Some Good Candidates Part II

Virginia Beach, Va.

Scott Rigell is a freshman Republican from Virginia’s 2nd District, and he has done a remarkable thing: he has signed, then renounced, Grover Norquist’s No-Tax Pledge, and he may live to tell the tale. …

Road Trip 2012, Day 3/4: Some Good Candidates

Virginia Beach, Va.

Well, I have a lot of writing to catch up on after the weekend. There will be (at least) three separate posts. One about several meetings I’ve had with Democrats in North Carolina and Virginia–after six months of hanging out with Republicans during the primaries, I figured it was time to listen to some Dems. …

Road Trip Day 3: The Playlist

Richmond, Virginia

Another full day and I’ll be posting about it tomorrow, after some sleep. Meanwhile, today’s playlist:

Road Trip 2012, Day 2 and a Half: A Quick Note About Music

A reader asks if I’m listening to any classical this trip. I love classical, but no. The first three songs that came up on my shuffling iPod this trip were from fabulous women artists:

Road Trip 2012, Day 2: A Man Who Speaks His Mind

Chapel Hill, North Carolina

HELLLLLLLP! I’m a victim of my own excesses. Andrew Hinderaker–our ace young photographer–and I have been going all day. We’ve done 4 different town meetings. It used to be that Katy Steinmetz …

Road Trip 2012, Day 1: The Vets Aren’t Happy

Mooresville, North Carolina

An early omen? I was dropped at the National Car Rental SUV row this morning in Charlotte to pick up a vehicle for the trip. There were a couple of KIAs, a VW, a Jeep Patriot. I chose the Jeep. This …

Campaign Road Trip 2012: Announcing Another Cross-Country Tour!

The campaign is in a lull. The wars overseas are winding down. Washington is paralyzed. I’ve loaded up my iPod with some new songs. There’s nothing to do but….hit the road! And so, my third annual election road trip will …