Elizabeth Santorum shares her campaign experiences

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Kayla Nguyen
Contributing Writer

The University News caught up with Elizabeth Santorum, who took a year off to work on her father Rick Santorum’s presidential campaign, and asked her to share a few things about her experience. Elizabeth will be returning to UD in the fall as a junior.
KN: What kind of work did you do for the campaign?
ES: Everything from making thousands of phone calls, to putting up yard signs, to sign waving, to interviews and lots more. Daily life on the campaign trail is characterized by fluid schedules and crazy hours. I got to see a little bit of every aspect of the campaign because I was so closely involved. I worked on fundraising, grassroots organization, volunteer coordination and event creation. The last several months, my main job was traveling as an aide to my dad on the road. When I wasn’t with him, I was a surrogate speaker for him across the country. From Hawaii to Missouri to Florida, I did interviews and speeches on behalf of my dad. At the same time, I also did my fair share of late-night coffee runs, literature drops and file cabinet organizing – the less glamorous side of things. One time, I painted and cleaned one of our offices before we moved in.
KN: What were some of the most challenging things about it?
ES: The long hours and the negative comments. A campaign schedule is grueling, but my dad put a new meaning to that type of intensity. He sometimes did eight or nine events a day. Even though I was just traveling with him, I was normally ready to drop at the end of each day. To this day I still don’t know how he has that type of energy! The other difficult part for me was hearing all of the nasty things people would say about him. As his daughter that’s just hard to hear. But as time went on, I learned to tune it out and focus on our message, not their comments.
KN: What were some of the most fun and exciting things about it?
ES: The whole process was, honestly, a very joyful one. Every day I was motivated and encouraged by the people I met. Hearing their stories and the passion they had for their country was one of my favorite parts of the campaign. I saw a lot of neat places too. I’ve been to almost all 50 states now! That alone made me appreciate America simply from the standpoint of how diverse and beautiful it is. There were lots of different things that made the journey exciting, like having Secret Service protection or chartering planes. All of these things added to the craziness and excitement of everyday life.
KN: Has this experience made you more interested in pursuing a career in politics?
ES: Yes and no. My parents have always taught me, in their words and actions, that holding public office is service to your country. I certainly understand how important it is to have good, honest people in office. At the same time, I know that holding office requires a lot of sacrifice and stamina. Obviously, as a presidential candidate’s daughter, I saw just how tough this world can be, too. That being said, I always want to remain engaged in the political world.
KN: Do you have any advice you would give to students interested in pursuing a career in politics?
ES: Always view political life as service to God and to your country. It keeps you grounded in a world that would gladly make you forget who you are and where you came from. Also, get as much real-life experience as you can – on both campaigns and government offices. It’s very different from what’s in a textbook.
KN: How has this experience affected the way that you live your daily life, and what are you going to take away from it?
ES: I certainly think I can handle a lot more! This campaign challenged me to grow in every way. I learned so many valuable lessons, not just about the political process, but about relationships, communication and so much more. The campaign also changed my life from a practical standpoint. I’ve been commentating on national news networks, [have been] offered speaking contracts, and am working on several projects with my parents. I’ll be keeping busy.
KN: Your experience is obviously very unique; what was it like to be under a microscope all the time?
ES: It was humbling and terrifying. People I had just met would comment on my new hairstyle or [say] that they had seen the dress I was wearing on me before. Silly things like that made me realize people were paying attention! I’ll never forget meeting this 11-year-old little girl named Savannah in Jackson, Miss. She came to the event to meet me, not my dad, and told me I was her role model. It was overwhelming and so humbling! I decided that I wanted to see the scrutiny as a positive thing, that it was a privilege to have a voice and an audience willing to listen.
KN: What is something that you think would surprise people about you and your experience during the past several months?
ES: I got dozens of marriage proposals over Twitter. I made the Secret Service agents cookies whenever I was home. I lived out of a suitcase for about four months. I almost forgot, when driving my own car, that I have to stop at red lights even though Secret Service doesn’t. I was one of the few people my dad would ask for advice when thinking about a speech. I loved the good days and the bad days.
KN: Do you have any other comments or remarks about this past year?
ES: I feel so blessed to have been a part of something that was so much more than a campaign. This was a movement that is still alive and well, just taking on a different form. Our campaign was overwhelmingly outspent in most states (sometimes more than 10 to one); we didn’t have the organizational machine of the Romney camp; and we spent months of the race not getting any attention from the national media. Yet we won 11 states, over 900 counties (compared to Romney’s approximately 300), and had over three million votes cast for my dad. We were Mitt Romney’s primary competition for the GOP nomination. It truly was such an American story of hard work and success against the odds.

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