As downtown Hollister found out Thursday afternoon, John Davis goes big.
The little-known Republican candidate for president – one of more than 300 citizens to file in the 2012 race – parked his campaign bus outside the Veterans Memorial Building for about 30 minutes as part of his tour across America.
The relatively unknown and modest Davis campaign’s less-than-modest, 43-foot-long bus fits the bill for this housing developer from Grand Junction, Colo. Aside from traveling in a billboard on wheels, Davis splashes a patriotic fervor throughout his campaign material, most noticeably the side of that $200,000 bus broadcasting his name and run for president.
“I got a flag outside my office building that’s 70 feet by 40 feet,” Davis said during his stop in Hollister. “It flies 16 stories high. I’ve had that for about seven years. I tell everybody, ‘That flag is real small compared to the passion I have for my country.’ I love my country. It’s God, family and country.”
Davis, who formally announced his candidacy in October 2010, said the gigantic bus was meant for functionality.
“We needed something for everybody to sleep in,” Davis said. “We eat in there. We sleep in there. We do our laundry in there. Our office is in there. We needed a billboard to travel down the road with, so people could see. That’s what brought you out today.”
Davis is hoping that others start to notice him, too. He proclaimed that San Benito was the 1,538th county visited so far on his tour. He mentioned there have been about 340 stories written by newspapers and other media outlets.
Davis said his campaign decided to “earn the right” to be a candidate, and despite getting little notice nationally he wants to “keep doing it a county at a time.”
He doesn’t like to talk much about the top Republican candidates vying to unseat President Obama, but acknowledged name recognition remains his “toughest challenge.”
“That’s the reason we haven’t been on the debates,” he said. “We have to be in at least five polls with at least 3 percent of the vote.”
He went on further about Republican voters: “They’re looking for somebody. Once they get through picking each other apart up there, one of these days they’ll pick us up.”
Davis knows he will have to do a lot more than drive a bus. In the end, he still has to gain confidence from voters on important issues. He called himself a “common-sense problem solver” and focuses his message on the economy.
“The (Environmental Protection Agency) is running everybody out of business. There’s no wonder we lose 15 manufacturing firms every day in this country,” he said. “We’ve got to reduce the size of government. We’ve got to get regulations off the backs of free enterprise and small businesses.”
His expertise comes from 35 years in business, but Davis doesn’t have experience in dealing with military matters or foreign relations. He summed up his stance on foreign policy in the interview with the Free Lance.
“To me, I break down foreign affairs as, like, we have to take care of Americans in America first, and that’s what foreign policy is. We have people in the government that know the presidents and all these guys over there. It’s basically protecting America. That’s what it boils down to right there.”
He said he agrees with Obama on pulling troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan and contended the U.S. didn’t have enough equipment to defend against such tactics as use of improvised explosive devices.
“I think we should’ve put some armor-plating vehicles over there and helped our troops out,” he said.
Davis didn’t have much time to talk because he had another scheduled stop shortly after in Merced. The only other person outside the Veterans Memorial Building at the time was Hollister Councilman Ray Friend, who happened across Davis while there to talk with the county’s veterans affairs representative. He said Davis approached him and asked him what he thought was “the biggest thing to put the country back on track.”
“I said, ‘Well, as far as employment, shut the EPA down,” Friend said. “Christ, the biggest thing that causes companies to look outside of the United States are the rules and regulations that go far beyond what’s just saving the (environment).”
Friend said it was “pretty cool” Davis stopped here.
“I think it’s a foregone conclusion it’s going to be one of two or three of those people. I like to see that somebody has the huevos to at least step up and give it a shot.”