Ron Paul's One-Man Band in the Granite State
Ron Paul's One-Man Band in the Granite State
Washington Post | 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.)
He is a staunch abortion opponent; he got his first shotgun when he was 9; and he says he loved Paul's plan to eliminate the Education Department.
"I like to think of myself as a Barry Goldwater conservative," he says. "When I think of the 1960s, I think of conservatism. People say, 'Reagan, Reagan, Reagan,' but what about Goldwater? That's why I consider myself a paleo-conservative."
Says Paul campaign committee chairman Kent Snyder: "If I could find a Jared in each state, we'd be in great shape."
The morning after arriving in Manchester, Chicoine seemed semi-refreshed. He had shaved and put on a tie. Kim Chicoine, who attends a Bible college and was eager to work alongside her husband, had traded her Dartmouth hockey sweat shirt for a smart pink and white blouse.
After helping lead Paul from Manchester to a radio appearance in Concord, Chicoine spent his time pacing in the station's kitchen and making calls. Signs had to be picked up. And volunteers had to be prepped. "It's a family trait," Kim says of Jared's pacing.
Later in the day, it seems Jared Chicoine can see some of the fruits of his labor. At Murphy's Tap Room in Manchester, volunteers have covered the bar with Ron Paul campaign signs and banners for the post-debate party.
T-shirts with "Who Is Ron Paul?" on the front and the Web site address on the back are everywhere.
Being the only staffer doesn't make Chicoine immune from complaints. He catches it from volunteer Dave Mincin, 58, who doesn't think Chicoine is keeping up with his e-mails. "I've heard from a lot of people who haven't heard from you," Mincin says. "You should at least respond by saying 'I'm busy now, but I'll get back to you.' " Chicoine shrugs it off. "That's the reality," he says.
Why all the work for such a long-shot candidate? "I think [Paul's campaign] should refocus conservatives about what it means to be conservative," Chicoine says. "We have to be about more than preemptive warfare."
By the end of the debate, Chicoine is sounding pretty satisfied with Paul's performance.
"He didn't waver," Chicoine says. "He's trying to remind the party of what conservatism used to be. I think he did that tonight."
But a one-man staff's work is never done. The post-debate celebration was the next stop.
Which means for now, the honeymoon can wait.
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