‘John Boehner’s got nothing on me’


Republican Party campaign volunteer Rick Datchuk makes simultaneous campaign calls to Ohio residents while working at the Grandview Victory Center in Columbus, Ohio. (Joel Prince -- The Washington Post)

COLUMBUS -- Mitt Romney's state headquarters was buzzing Monday morning, with volunteers handing out tickets for Monday night's campaign rally at the airport and about 20 volunteers making last-minute phone calls to voters.

Amid the scrum, a constant presence: Rick Datchuk, 62, who lives down the street and has been volunteering for Romney since February. His commitment to the campaign is perhaps best captured in a Post photograph, used frequently in recent weeks, of Datchuk gripping two phones to make simultaneous calls to potential supporters. For this reporter, Datchuk was instantly recognizable, and meeting him here was mere coincidence.

"It's not as hard as it looks, making two calls at once," he said Monday. "I'm doing my small part to save America."

After making about 20,000 phone calls -- many of which led to expletive-laden hangups -- Datchuk will be rewarded Monday night with the task of leading Romney supporters at the campaign rally in the Pledge of Allegiance.

That is, if he can hold it together.

Datchuk is a tall, burly man, a former Marine with a career as a commercial construction manager and architect. But he's also a "teddy bear," his fellow volunteers said, a frequent crier who chokes up regularly as he thinks of the prospects of a Romney victory, of what it would mean to put the country back on course after four years of unkept promises and unanswered questions from President Obama.

"There's so much money out there waiting to be spent, and people don't know what to do," Datchuk said. "There's a lot of fear out there."

He recalled meeting Ann Romney a few weeks ago at the campaign office: "I told her I don't have enough money to donate $1 million or do bundle for them," he said. "So I told her that all I can do is donate my energy, my time and my talent."

And with that, the tears started flowing.

"John Boehner's got nothing on me," he said, referring to the tear-prone Speaker of the House. "There's two things I care about: My kids and my country."

If Romney wins on Tuesday, "I'm going to be crying," he said.

And if President Obama wins? "You don't want to be around. You'll need high-water boots," he said.

Datchuk said he's met volunteers who traveled from California, Oregon, Texas and New Jersey to make phone calls, knowing that they need to help Romney in Ohio in order to win the White House.

Datchuk's mix of emotions -- pride, hope and exhaustion -- appeared to personify what many in the room were feeling Monday: That enough Republicans and independents will vote Tuesday to help Romney win. If it happens, they'll know they did their part.

But few will react as emotionally as Datchuk.

"You see that bumper sticker over there: 'Believe in America.' That's not a bumper sticker for me. That's reality," he said.

The tears flowed again.

Ed O’Keefe is covering the 2016 presidential campaign, with a focus on Jeb Bush and other Republican candidates. He's covered presidential and congressional politics since 2008. Off the trail, he's covered Capitol Hill, federal agencies and the federal workforce, and spent a brief time covering the war in Iraq.

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