Many GW students have earned their political efficacy stripes volunteering for presidential campaigns, though few can say they were a personal driver of a Republican presidential candidate.
Junior David Boyajian landed a volunteer position working on the campaign of presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) that allowed him to get up close and personal with campaign senior staff members, the press and McCain himself.
“It’s really a unique position for someone my age,” Boyajian said. “I’m not going door to door, I’m not doing any of the typical things that many volunteers my age do when they want to get involved in a campaign. My access to the campaign is a lot more than most other people.”
Boyajian is an advance member of the McCain campaign, which means he and other advance members stake out campaign sites prior to McCain’s arrival. He landed the elite position through connections he fostered through the former political online community, Hotsoup.com, where he interned.
“(The advance team is) pretty much the person on the spot,” Boyajian said. “Then when the candidate comes to town, they drive them around, get them food and basically make sure everything goes as smoothly as possible.”
In the weeks prior to the Jan. 8 primary in New Hampshire, Boyajian performed many of these “person on the spot” activities for the McCain campaign and the campaign reimbursed Boyajian for all of his driving and personal expenses. With the aid of his Jeep Cherokee, Boyajian drove McCain, his wife and press officials. Even when the snow was pounding in New Hampshire, Boyajian still had to drive.
“Because there was so much snow, we couldn’t take the (McCains’) bus,” Boyajian said. “We all had to get in these vans . I got stuck driving the last car, but I was with the chief reporter from the Chicago Tribune, a reporter from Newsweek and an NBC producer. It was literally a blizzard. We were slipping and sliding throughout the highway, really scared to death that something was going to happen.”
Boyajian said the highest point of his time in New Hampshire was McCain’s victory in that state’s primary.
“After (McCain’s) speech I just went back stage and high-fived the staff members . It’s nothing like I’ve ever experienced,” Boyajian said. “So many of us just worked our asses off and it finally just paid off and it was over and we won, so that was a fantastic experience.”
Boyajian will continue his work on the McCain campaign in Florida before the state’s primary.
Sophomore Whitney Ksiazek has also contributed to McCain’s campaign. She interned for McCain last summer in the District.
“During the summer I interned in finance, which was one of the most interesting experiences because in July, I witnessed firsthand all of the events that led to the media frenzy over staff resignations (in the McCain campaign),” Ksiazek said.
She said she and the close-knit campaign staff never lost faith in McCain despite these early shortcomings. Ksiazek recalled that a man called the headquarters saying that the campaign was a sinking ship.
“I just wish I could tell him now, ‘I told you so,'” Ksiazek said.
Senior Zachary Morgan manned the Mike Huckabee presidential campaign on the opposite coast in California this summer, serving as the chairman of the Orange County campaign. Morgan said the Huckabee fans at that point were few and far between.
“I was making my own fliers to pass out at events,” Morgan said. “I was a one-man presidential campaign that no one thought was going to win out in Orange County.”
When Morgan was a featured speaker promoting Huckabee at the Irvine Republican council, about four people showed up. Still, Morgan continued his campaign work. In his position, he even had the opportunity to speak before the Republican Central Committee on Huckabee’s behalf.
“It’s very grassroots,” Morgan said. “(Huckabee) doesn’t have the money for professional staff . he has a network of homeschoolers, church members and people like myself who picked up the phone and said we want to do something for Gov. Huckabee.”