This reporter's notebook was written by CBS News' Beth Knobel.
It's one part talent show, one part political convention. It's called "Political Factory," and there's never been anything quite like it before.
In the Russian city of Lipetsk, 300 miles south of Moscow, 14 young Russians have been competing to go into politics. The prize? Actual seats in the regional legislature.
It's one of nine such contests going on around Russia, designed to get young people pumped about politics — young people like 23-year-old Irina Filonova, who works as an organizer for the youth wing of the country's dominant political party, United Russia.
"I found out about the contest almost by accident, and my friends convinced me to enter," she says. "It's so democratic!"
The hopefuls were excited about the contest, but hardly knew how to campaign. The level of political discourse was a lot lower than you'd find at in a race for student body president at a typical American high school.
One woman invited her friends on stage to do a little play. They pretended to be bad kids drinking beer and holding weapons — but she disarmed them.
In her presentation, Filonova told the audience to vote for her because she's been a leader of others since kindergarten. Sergei Pozdnyakov tried winning votes with a slick power point presentation. "I'm a patriot," he said, as his baby pictures flashed on a screen, "and want to serve my country." The presentation then showed him in his army uniform.
Contestant Roman Ivannikov didn't have to say much — his four army buddies made the point about Russia staying strong with a demonstration of their martial arts skills
Their slogans may be different, but all the contestants actually have a lot in common. They're young, they're ambitious — and they all wholeheartedly support Russian president Vladimir Putin.
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