wpostServer: http://css.washingtonpost.com/wpost2
Posted at 09:02 AM ET, 01/10/2012

One New Hampshire volunteer’s path to Santorum

MANCHESTER, N.H.—Rod Olsen had planned to be here for a very long time. A political junkie, stay-at-home dad of three and part-time political consultant in Modesto, Calif., he had wanted to see the New Hampshire primary close-up, from the trenches.

“It was always on my bucket list to go to New Hampshire,” he said..

But how he happened to be standing at the back of a sports bar, helping to manage the throng that had showed up on election eve for former Sen. Rick Santorum (Pa.), was a matter of luck and heart and fluke.

Many months ago, Olsen and his wife Kristin, a state assemblywoman, had agreed that he should come to New Hampshire and have the experience he had always dreamed of. What Rod couldn’t figure out, however, was which candidate he would come here to work for.

At first, “Tim Pawlenty was my guy,” he recalled. But when the former Minnesota governor’s campaign crashed early in the process, Olsen pondered which of the other ones best reflected both his social conservative values and his desire for a chance to see the big-time from the inside.

He had considered Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.) and former Godfathers Pizza CEO Herman Cain, but neither of them seemed capable of even getting this far. Finally, he volunteered to work for Romney, and bought a plane ticket for Jan. 4, the day after the Iowa caucuses.

Still, “it didn’t feel right to me. I felt like I was settling,” he said. Until the night before he left, when he happened to catch Santorum’s speech celebrating his photo-finish in Iowa. Olsen had never even considered Santorum, but at that moment, he turned to his wife and said: “You know, Kristin, this is a candidate I could support.”

The next day, he got up at 4:30 a.m. and struggled with his decision as he made the drive to the Sacramento airport. He landed in Manchester at 5:30 p.m., checked into his hotel and reported for duty at Santorum’s headquarters. He started out making phone calls, but the campaign quickly recognized the value of his political experience in California, and put him to work arranging events. By the end of the week, Olsen was driving the candidate and his family from place to place.

Olsen’s idyll comes to an end on Wednesday. Santorum heads for South Carolina, and Olsen has to get back to his kids.

But he says: “I’ll be rooting for him. I’ll be praying. And come Nevada? Nevada is only a little bit away.”

More New Hampshire primary news from Post Politics:

Mitt Romney under attack as New Hampshire vote looms

Dana Milbank: Mitt Romney's money problem

The Fix: Is Jon Huntsman a one-state wonder?

Newt Gingrich veers from nice to nasty

New Hampshire primary: pre-game analysis

By  |  09:02 AM ET, 01/10/2012

 
Read what others are saying
     

    © 2011 The Washington Post Company