Up close and personal with Ted Cruz at 1:15 a.m.
Republican presidential candidates and Daily Pennsylvanian editors evidently have similar tastes in hotels. But some are friendlier to student journalists than others.
As six Daily Pennsylvanian staffers and I arrived at the I-26 Hampton Inn after a long day of reporting, we noticed a red-white-and-blue campaign bus waiting in the parking lot. We approached warily, believing it was the Rubio bus and expecting another terse encounter with the defensive staff of the Republican primary runner-up. It was only when we saw the "Courageous Cruzer" emblazoned on the front that we knew we were in for something else.
It became clear when we saw Rafael Cruz, Sen. Ted Cruz's father, outside the bus that two of the five remaining GOP presidential candidates were, in fact, staying in the same hotel as us.
We camped out on the curb outside Cruz's bus, shivering and passing a bag of trail mix back and forth as we waited for the candidate to make an appearance. Cruz's staffers were notably friendlier than Rubio's — many greeted us and wished us a good night on their way inside.
As we continued to wait, several staffers exited the bus, punctuated by minutes of non-activity. A young-looking babysitter ushered a tired Caroline and Catherine Cruz from the bus. Heidi Cruz stepped off in stilettos and a trenchcoat, deep in a phone conversation.
Around two hours later, we'd moved into the hotel lobby. It was about 1:15 a.m. when Cruz and a few campaign staffers finally came through. Editor-in-chief Lauren Feiner, Assignments Editor Ellie Schroeder and I immediately approached, while News Photo Editor Julio Sosa stood by, ready with a camera.
Citing exhaustion, Cruz declined an interview with us. But he shook our hands and took a picture, and we made small talk about Penn and the fact that his oldest daughter and I share a name.
Cruz may have finished behind Trump in the South Carolina primary. But in terms of friendliness level to a gang of student journalists, he came out on top.