The Hopefuls - JENNIFER CLOSE

Chapter 1

This is what people talk about at an Obama campaign reunion:

· How early they joined the campaign

· What they did on the campaign

· Who they slept with on the campaign

· Good hotels

· Bad hotels

· How many Hilton points they have

· How many frequent flier miles they have

· Who worked for Hillary before joining Obama (This was whispered behind the backs of former Hillary staffers like it was a shameful secret. Sort of like herpes.)

· Inside jokes about lost luggage

· How amazing Iowa was (Usually you’d hear someone say something like “Weren’t you in Iowa? Oh man, you should’ve been there. You missed out. It felt like we were changing the world.” Then you’d brace yourself for about an hour’s worth of Iowa stories.)

We were at a bar near the White House called The Exchange, which had a lot of TVs and smelled like bleach and dirty rags. Matt ordered drinks for us at the bar and then we walked around, stopping every few seconds so he could give someone a handshake or a half hug and say, “Hey man, how’ve you been?” He was more hyper than usual—being around the campaign people made him jumpy like he’d been chugging Red Bull. All that Hope and Change will do that to a person. Every time he introduced me to someone, he’d put his hand on my back and push me forward a little, saying, “This is Beth, my wife.” And when he’d tell me the name of the person I was meeting, he’d always include their job title. “This is Larry, an associate research director at the White House.” Each time, I’d say something like “Wow, that’s great.” I had no idea what any of it meant, but I did my best to look impressed.

Eventually we found ourselves standing in a circle of people listening to this guy, Billy, tell a story about one of the early fund-raising events. He was animated and everyone was hanging on his every word. “So, I was driving the Senator around Minnesota in a rental car,” he said. “A Ford Fiesta, I think. This was sometime in 2007. And we hit a pothole and almost lost a tire.”

Everyone laughed like this was really funny, so I did too, but it gave me kind of a creepy feeling. Billy was telling this story like it was about potholes or Ford Fiestas, but it wasn’t. The real points of the story were:

1. Billy knew Obama when he was a senator and he knew him so well that sometimes he just forgot that he was the president now and still referred to him as the Senator. Such a simple mistake.

2. He joined the campaign so early that there weren’t even drivers yet, which means that Billy drove around Minnesota with Obama in shotgun. How crazy is that? How jealous is everyone?

3. And again, just to repeat it, he joined the campaign early. So early. Earlier than everyone else. Before you, definitely. He always knew Obama would be the nominee. Possibly, he was the first person in the world to know.

As everyone laughed at the hilarious Ford Fiesta story, Matt put his hand on my back and I braced myself to be introduced to someone else, but he just leaned down and whispered, “We can go soon, okay?” I nodded and tried to look like I was having fun, like I loved being at this reunion. (Which by the way was a really weird thing to call it—a reunion—because all of these people lived in DC and most of them worked together. If they wanted to reunite, they could