BUS WARS

Barack Obama, John McCain, Sarah Palin & More: Politicians’ Bus Wars (Photos)

See the buses that politicians from John McCain to Sarah Palin have used to take their messages across America.

Getty Images (3) ; AP Photo

Getty Images (3) ; AP Photo

John McCain has criticized President Obama’s bus tour as a campaign trip that uses “a Canadian bus touting American jobs.” He said on the Senate floor, "I must say again I have never seen an uglier bus than a Canadian one." See how how other politicians decorated their buses, from Sarah Palin's Constitution-wrapped vehicle to John Edwards's Main Street Express.

Susan Walsh / AP Photo

Obama’s ‘Ugly’ Bus

If there is one thing John McCain just won’t stand for, it's Canadian-made vehicles. Good thing the company McCain used to outfit his own Straight Talk Express is as American as apple pie. Not like the “ugly” Canadian bus in which President Obama has been cruising around the country “touting American jobs.” Unfortunately for the Arizona senator, his attempted diss of the president’s wheels doesn’t hold much water. The Secret Service may have purchased this nondescript bus from a Canadian manufacturer, but it was outfitted by the same American company that brought us McCain’s Straight Talk. Politicians have long used tour buses similar to those used by rock bands to campaign cross-country, but these days a conventional bus just won’t cut it. In recent years candidates have taken to pimping their rides into rolling campaign ads. From Michael Steele’s “Fire Pelosi!” coach to John Edwards’s Main Street Express, we take a look at some of the political tour buses that have stepped it up a notch.

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John McCain: The Straight Talk Express

Since its induction into the McCain camp in 2000, the Straight Talk Express has had at least two constants: a back seat perpetually full of reporters, and a John McCain perpetually talking. Unable to beat out George W. Bush for the Republican nomination in 2000, McCain thought he’d try his luck again in ‘08 and, naturally, revived the old Straight Talk for the ride. High costs, however, forced McCain to downgrade a bit, trading in what The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza called “a state-of-the-art behemoth” for “something that looked more like an actual bus.”

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Michael Steele’s 'Fire Pelosi!' Bus

In the fall of 2010, Michael Steele, then GOP chairman, had a mission: to oust Democrat Nancy Pelosi from her position as speaker of the House. And what better way to spread one’s message around the country than to plaster it on the side of a tour bus and hit the road? That’s exactly what Steele did. Despite his lack of popularity within his own party, Steele hopped on the “Fire Pelosi!” Bus and tooled around the U.S., attempting to advance the Republican mission of recapturing the House of Representatives, using Pelosi as a target. The Republicans got what they wanted in the end—Pelosi was unseated—but she wasn’t the only one who got fired.

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Sarah Palin Bus: Wrapped in the Constitution

Sarah Palin has never officially run for president, but why should she be left out of the tour-bus club? Back in May, before the former Alaska governor finally conceded she won’t be running in 2012, Palin made the media squeal when she purchased a bus, plastered the U.S. Constitution across it and hit the pavement. The “One Nation” tour was derailed just one week after it started but—unlike her campaign—resumed course a few months later.

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John Edwards: The Main Street Express

Though playing for the other team, John Edwards attempted to emulate John McCain’s original campaign tactic—and garner some extra press attention—by naming his own tour bus the “Main Street Express.” Edwards tried to lure reporters over to his camp by promising them oodles of access but, to his surprise, found them mostly uninterested. That was, of course, until he confessed to having an affair on the campaign trail. Now that attracted attention.

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Mitt Romney: The Mitt Mobile

By the time the Mitt Mobile had hit each of Iowa’s 99 counties in the summer of 2007, Mitt Romney’s campaign bus would be known as much for the candidate inside as the driver behind the wheel: Romney’s son, Josh, then 31. Father and son started their road trip in Salt Lake City headed for a tour of Iowa, their final destination: the Ames Straw Poll. Romney won but went on to lose the Republican nomination to John McCain, who garnered less than 1 percent of the straw vote. 

Charlie Neibergall / Getty Images

Bachmann’s Recycled Straight Talk Express

This summer, Michele Bachmann, like many a presidential hopeful before her, hopped aboard a bus adorned with stars and stripes and made her way to Iowa. The Minnesota congresswoman didn’t just take the typical campaign path, but followed closely in the footsteps of one lady politico in particular. The Daily Mail pointed out that while on tour Bachmann hung out at Iowa diners and admired random peoples’ tattoos—a move Palin perfected earlier that summer at the Memorial Day Rolling Thunder parade in D.C. And that's not the only thing she borrowed: The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza points out that Bachmann's bus was earlier used as John McCain's Straight Talk Express.