GILFORD, NH - I'm at one of Operation Live Free or Die's 14 houses for Ron Paul volunteers - the "bases" that will (they hope) overflow with 400 people, canvassing, phone banking, and turning out votes. Ages range from 20 to 40 (not rounding up or down, those are the youngest and oldest people), and everybody shares food, frozen beers (warmed on a radiator) and parking space, recently reduced by a mountain of snow. No one has an unkind word.
"I've never seen a group this big and diverse get along so well," says Anthony Reed, the 20-year old from Fort Worth.
"It's the smartest group of people I've talked to in a long while," says John Nulty, a Massachusetts grad student. "Not since I was staying in youth hostels, touring Europe."
This house is set far, far away from the populous part of New Hampshire (that's a relative term), close to the Gunstock resort and nestled among dozens of similar spacious rental cabins. You'd guess a Bible study group was bunking here if not for the open bottles of Sam Adams and pale ale or the Rothbard and Ron Paul books splayed open on coffee tables. There's also a stack of mini-Constitutons: Nulty brags that the Operation bought the Cato Institute's entire supply.
Few of the volunteers got here before December, but all of them have canvassed and report that it's a lot more effective than phone-banking. They go to small towns where, according to the locals, no Republican campaign has bothered sending troops. Yesterday Indiana musician Aaron Jones hit 30 houses and gave 9 signs to people who claimed they'd warmed to Paul. They're an optimistic group and they have no love for the rest of the GOP field. When Mitt Romney's face appears for a 10-minute C-Span interview, one of them jokingly punches the screen. When Fred Thompson comes on, they just laugh, and they lose it when C-Span advertises more Thompson videos on their website.
"Forget about Lunesta," Reed says. "Just pop one of those on!"
I'm hearing a lot of excitement and some disappointment that the ersatz campaign isn't better organized. More in a full article later.