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Inside Politics

Express Line dispatch: The day after ...

"Crossfire" co-host Paul Begala

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• The Candidates: Bush | Kerry
Presidential primaries
Election Express
America Votes 2004

From Paul Begala, CNN's "Crossfire" co-host:

COLUMBIA, South Carolina (CNN) -- Next time you're in Columbia, South Carolina, I recommend the Deathburger at John Paul's Armadillo Oil Company. The CNN crew wolfed down the Deathburgers on a quick break in our coverage, and were back on the bus -- and back on the air -- rejuvenated.

Election nights are always exciting, and this one more than most. I've been on the phone with strategists from the various campaigns, which is fun because I've worked with all of them at one time or another in my prior life as a political consultant.

They're all about as nervous as a porcupine in a balloon factory. Primary nights are hell on political staffers, because as the farmers say, "the hay's in the barn." Aside from the candidate's speech, there's nothing staffers can do. The polls are closed, the doors have all been knocked on, the calls have all been made. Which is why so many campaign hands get drunk on primary night.

Our hotel is ... well ... interesting. It is apparently some kind of wildlife habitat, because there are all kinds of tiny livestock roaming about. Some have six legs, some eight, but none of them are paying for the room. I'm hoping none of them want to spoon with me. I may be a liberal, but I'm a strong supporter of the death penalty for insects in my bedroom.

I shouldn't gripe too much, though, because Monday night we stayed in one of the great hotels of Charleston, South Carolina: The Embassy Suites, which is housed in the grand old fortress that once was the Citadel. Each room had a Jacuzzi, and none of them had bugs. So if you average Monday night's hotel with last night's, I'd say we're at about 2 stars.

Last night, Bob Novak and I were doing our live shots from the grounds of the Capitol building -- within spittin' distance of the statue of Strom Thurmond (and, no, I didn't spit). It was a chilly night, but after freezing our butts off in Iowa and New Hampshire, neither Novak nor I are going to gripe about temps in the 40's.

Besides, the on-air guys have the best jobs in the world. The producers who set up those beautiful shots you see on the air have been up since 4 a.m. -- and will stay on the job until midnight. A 20-hour day -- just another day at the office for Kate and Eileen and Abbi and the rest of the remarkable CNN Election Express team.

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