Being plucked from a relatively quiet life to join a presidential nominee as the running mate can be a rude shock to the psyche and the family. But the designated pit bulls, Democrat Joe Biden and Republican Sarah Palin, have moved swiftly to add some homey touches to their temporary residences: the campaign jets. On Biden's craft, rented from Sun Country, it's all about family. So much so that staffers call his airborne office "County Biden" because it looks like a flying family reunion. Regulars include son Hunter and niece Missy, and his grandkids often get a ride. It's not unusual to find a baby car seat or two on the tarmac getting the treatment from U.S. Secret Service bomb-sniffing dogs. Inside Biden's cabin are pictures of wife Jill and son Beau, in crew cut because he just deployed to Iraq. And beware the overhead compartment. Biden (Secret Service code name "Celtic") has filled it with campaign-trail trinkets to give to his grandchildren. The candidate also keeps a couple of mementos for himself: a Philadelphia Flyers jersey given to him by Jill, a passionate hockey fan, and a football from Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin. While Biden's an avid Eagles fan, he has a soft spot in his heart for the Steelers, who reached out to him after his first wife died in 1972. Of course, it's family time on Palin's jet, too, often led by her little daughter Piper. We hear that she walks around handing out black licorice and "Vote for Piper's Mom" stickers to staff and reporters. While it's dubbed Straight Talk II, the staff calls the jet the "Airacuda," a spin on Palin's Last Frontier moniker, "Sarahcuda." Fox News is the cable station of choice. And local grub is a big deal. When landing in cities new to the Alaska governor, staffers troll www.roadfood.com for tips. The faves so far: In-N-Out Burger, Culver's Burgers, and Philly cheesesteaks.
Illustration by Joe Ciardiello for USN&WR