Ron Paul's One-Man Band in the Granite State
Wednesday, June 6, 2007
MANCHESTER, N.H. -- "Two days was not enough," Jared Chicoine says, standing in the lobby of a Holiday Inn Express on the eve of Tuesday's third Republican presidential debate.
Unshaven and dressed in a blue Ralph Lauren oxford shirt and khakis, Chicoine could easily pass for a hung-over fraternity brother. Instead, the 25-year-old is the non-drinking, nonsmoking New Hampshire campaign coordinator for Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.). That makes him the lone paid political operative working in a key state for a Republican presidential candidate whose candor has earned him plenty of buzz of late.
The presidential debates are the kind of spotlight every candidate relishes, and especially one like libertarian Paul, who isn't exactly considered part of the GOP mainstream.
And Chicoine, with a true-believer's heart, has arrived for these debates fresh from his honeymoon -- all two days of it.
On Saturday, he married 19-year-old Kimberly Sutherland in a Baptist church in Woodsville. After the honeymoon in Jackson, he hotfooted here, his bride in tow. The two had planned the wedding last year, well before Chicoine got involved with the Paul campaign. But when your candidate's got his big political moment and you're his only man in the state, who's got time to worry about honeymoons.
"I just play with it," Chicoine says, fiddling with his wedding ring. "I've had it on for two days and I haven't gotten used to it."
There's a lot he's getting used to -- especially the increased attention on Paul. During the two previous debates, the congressman earned both props and disdain in Republican circles for his criticism of U.S. policy in Iraq. Indeed, it seems like the man once dubbed "Dr. No," for his non-party-line votes, has stepped into his national moment.
"Ron Paul's speaking to people like me," Barbara Hagan, a former New Hampshire state representative and mother of seven, says one recent evening before dinner in the Manchester Radisson. "He's an honorable man. He's a hardworking man. I want my party back. I want my country back, and I want the U.S. out of Iraq."
Paul wants to channel such fervor into political action. That's where Chicoine comes in.
Working from his one-bedroom apartment in northern New Hampshire, Chicoine gets to his computer by 7 a.m., and spends much of his day making calls and sending e-mails. He takes a couple of hours for dinner and a long walk, then he's back working the phones again. "I'm the only guy," Chicoine says. "It's a challenge, but I have to tell you, I'm having a great time. I couldn't see myself working for anyone else in this field."
Something of a political gym rat -- they grow a lot of them in New Hampshire, where politics is a part of the landscape -- Chicoine has been involved in campaigns since graduating from high school in 2000. Last year he took a break to attend Landmark Baptist College in Florida. But that was before he found the small government, anti-tax, anti-interventionist church of Ron Paul.
Chicoine helped to arrange Paul's first trip to the state in February, then officially joined the campaign in April. (He's got a bare-bones operation. Paul's New Hampshire general works without a BlackBerry, keeping his phone numbers instead in a yellow spiral notebook.)