Published May 12, 2003
DES MOINES, Iowa – It didn't take Florida Sen. Bob Graham (search) long to find a nugget as he bustled around a crowded diner, polishing tables and carting away tubs of dirty glasses and dishes in a classic presidential campaign endeavor.
"We'd like Bush fired, and I'm a Republican," said Louis Smith, a retired college professor taking out his wife, Joyce, for a Mother's Day brunch.
That's a line guaranteed to get the attention of a candidate for the Democratic nomination. "What don't you like about him?" Graham asked, after ensuring the other tables didn't need a senatorial busboy.
It seems budget deficits were troubling Smith, and Graham informed him of his vote against the latest round of tax cuts.
That impressed Mrs. Smith, and she told Graham she would remember at a Democratic caucus (search) in Iowa's first-in-the-nation caucuses in January. But she hadn't made up her mind.
After a minute, Graham was off to the Drake Diner's next table that needing busing. Wearing a purple shirt, sneakers and cotton pants, Graham had to hustle to keep up. Besides the Mother's Day crowd, the diner still was getting trade from Saturday's graduation at nearby Drake University.
Graham spent five hours busing tables at the diner, the 388th "work day" of his political career. The personal tradition is spend time working alongside typical workers in various jobs.
Graham has a perfect record in Florida politics (search), a two-time governor before his election to the Senate in 1986. He considers the "work days" an important part of that record by making by bringing him closer to the thoughts of ordinary voters.
Since entering the race for the Democratic nomination, Graham has pledged to continue his work days in key early voting states like Iowa and New Hampshire. He arrived in Iowa after spending part of a day teaching school in New Hampshire, and plans to work as the hired help on an Iowa farm next week.