COLUMBIA, S.C. — You wouldn’t think that Republican presidential candidate and Florida Senator Marco Rubio — who has risen to the upper ranks of polls, taken on his own mentor, fellow candidate and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and secured the endorsement of the governor here — could be stopped by two Daily Pennsylvanian staffers. But on Saturday morning, the day of the Republican primary here, Assignments Editor Ellie Schroeder and I delayed the Rubio campaign.
While eating a continental breakfast at the Columbia Hampton Inn around 10:30 a.m. this morning, seven DP editors saw the bus pull up through the tinted windows. Naturally, we asked one of the hotel employees in the lobby what it was doing here. She told us: of course the bus was here, he’d spent the night.
After getting over the initial shock that a presidential candidate had booked the same hotel as our rinky-dink team, we gathered our notebooks and cameras as we prepared for Rubio to walk in with his staff. We snagged a video of an awkward interaction between Rubio and a man whom we later found out was Ted Cruz campaign staffer Christian Collins who was sitting next to Cruz’s father, Rafael.
We whispered about what to do — Cruz’s father was eating breakfast in front of us and Rubio was somewhere in this building, but who knew when he would leave? Shortly after, we heard Rubio was exiting through the back, where his campaign bus had tucked itself away.
Ellie and I made our way around the hotel and stood in front of the bus in the parking lot, with Video Producer Matt Mizbani sitting across the way on a curb. A man in black a baseball cap and plaid shirt stepped out of a large white car, Bluetooth looped around his ear. “Can I just ask what you guys are doing here?” he asked us. “We are waiting for Senator Rubio,” Ellie said after we exchanged a look.
The man stepped back into his car and made a phone call. We saw rustling on the bus, staffers moving on and off, one going over to talk to the man in the car. Meanwhile, a hotel employee inside told DP President Colin Henderson, “You should go get your girls,” adding that police could get involved.
Outside, a Rubio staffer went inside and soon a hotel employee came out and walked toward the group of now four of us, including Campus News Editor Caroline Simon. The campaign wanted us to leave, the hotel employee told us, they’re afraid we want to interview the senator.
We told her we were guests of the hotel and did not have to leave. She looked uncomfortable and told us she didn’t like doing this. She was at a standstill.
Unfortunately, we had to make our way to an interview we’d already postponed to follow the senator. But we still managed to run into another presumed Rubio staffer or security guard before leaving. He approached us brusquely, telling us we need to go. We told him we were guests of the hotel.
“Oh, we weren’t sure,” he told us, uncomfortably realizing he lacked the grounds to ask us to leave.