To Be Young And in Love With Ron Paul

Hundreds of college students from across the nation and world gathered in Des Moines Thursday to begin a week of volunteer campaigning for Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul. Video by Jackie Refo/
By Libby Copeland
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 2, 2008

DES MOINES -- The Ron Paul boys have come to this great state by bus and borrowed ride, with long johns under their jeans and little in their pockets.

All day, they go door-to-door in the snow on behalf of their hero, the libertarian and 10-term Republican congressman Ron Paul. At night, they sleep in YMCA cabins, one of which has no hot water.

"A lot of guys in a small area," says Jeff Frazee, the Paul campaign's youth coordinator. "Doesn't smell the best."

During spare moments, which are rare, the Paul boys watch guy movies such as "Transformers" and wish there were more girls around.

Oh well, says Adam Kirschner, 23, of Ozark Christian College, leaning against a wall in the campaign office. "We didn't come here for the chicks."

"Speak for yourself," says Eddie Siegel, 18.

One of the unlikeliest stories in this city in the last days before tomorrow's caucuses is the young men who have flocked to the long-shot candidacy of Paul. He seems an unusual icon for them. He is 72 and a great-grandfather. He has been married half a century. He adores his tomato plants and is generally mild-mannered when not calling for the abolition of the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Education.

"He's so sweet," says Corey Walsh, 19, a college freshman from Marshall, Ark., who recently got to give Paul a hug. "I really wish he was my grandpa."

The Paul brigade has come to Iowa as part of a student outreach effort the campaign calls "Ron Paul's Christmas Vacation," which makes the whole thing sound madcap, like a Chevy Chase movie. And it is a little like that. There are nearly 300 young people staying at camps across the state. The ones nearest Des Moines spend their days hopping on and off a 1980s school bus that's been painted red, white and blue and dubbed the Constitution Coach. It drops them off in neighborhoods where the kids canvass and where -- on a recent weekday around noon -- two Paul boys have very little luck getting anyone to talk to them.

"How do you feel about Ron Paul?" Andrew Pierson, 21, asks a man coming down his driveway in Johnston. Pierson's mustache has icicles on it.

"I feel like I've got about 15 minutes to eat lunch and get back to work," the man replies.

Pierson's compatriot, Daniel Selsam, 23, has taken off his gloves to better grip the pamphlets he's putting behind people's screen doors. His fingers ache from the cold.

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