If you close your eyes and think, "Diehard Sarah Palin supporter," an image of Kevin DuJan is unlikely to come to mind.
A 33-year-old gay man who works as a development consultant and freelance writer, DuJan has long considered himself a Clinton Democrat. During the 2008 primaries, he spent his weekdays running phone banks for Hillary Clinton out of his home in the Boystown neighborhood of Chicago and traveled to 26 states and Puerto Rico on behalf of the candidate.
But after Clinton suspended her campaign, DuJan made a dramatic about face and spent the general election volunteering for the Republican ticket.
When John McCain named Sarah Palin his vice presidential nominee, DuJan was overjoyed, and Palin quickly became his new political idol. He is now eagerly awaiting the arrival of February 6, 2011, the date he has decided that Sarah Palin will announce her 2012 presidential campaign in Tampico, Illinois, to mark the 100th anniversary of hometown hero Ronald Reagan's birthday.
DuJan has even picked out the color he wants Palin to use for her presidential campaign logo (green, in order to dilute criticisms from the left that she is anti-environment).
"I make people in the neighborhood mad all the time because I'm not a liberal," DuJan says over coffee at Nookies Tree Restaurant, where the colors of the rainbow flag appear on nearly every corner and adult boutiques are easier to find than convenience stores. "Here in the neighborhood, if you don't toe the liberal line, they immediately attack you."
The website that DuJan founded in support of Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign, Hillbuzz.org, is now among the cadre of pro-Palin online destinations that serve as clearinghouses for news and analysis of all things Palin.
Dujan and four of his friends who live in Boystown shape HillBuzz with a relentlessly anti-Obama tenor and a promise that they will never forget how they feel Clinton was wronged during the 2008 campaign.
The five of them are all gay, and Dujan says that he often gets emails from social conservatives who previously held negative attitudes toward gay people that the Hillbuzz site, which speaks so favorably of Palin, had made them reconsider.
They share a conviction that Palin has taken over Clinton's mantle and will become the nation's first "madam president." And they intend to be at the forefront of helping her do so.
"I wish that we had started in 2006 for Hillary and had groundwork in place and really had our teams together," says DuJan, who has seen Palin speak in person about eight times. "There's only one other person I would do this for again, and it's Sarah. I'll go all in for her, too, in any way that I can."
Palin reminds DuJan of his aunts and grandmas that he grew up around in northeast Ohio, but he insists that it is not the mere fact that Palin is a woman that attracts him to her politically. He admires her accomplishments as governor, and at least as importantly, the fearlessness he says she exhibits in the face of the same kind of attacks that Clinton once faced.
He is convinced that the media is little more than a propaganda machine for the Obama administration and lives in fear of a Palin nomination that might derail the president that they anointed.
"They just want to stop the woman," he says.
Early next year, DuJan expects to make the transition from online rabble-rouser to dedicated campaign worker.
A Passionate Base to a Presidential Campaign?
If Palin embarks on a presidential run next year, all signs indicate that it would be the fiercely loyal, yet decidedly nontraditional operatives like DuJan who would form the backbone of her campaign. Other Republican candidates will benefit from having more seasoned organizations, but none will surpass the fervor and energy that these "Palin-heads" are already providing on behalf of their political heroine.
But Palin clearly has the fire in her belly that is required for any would-be president and has indicated on many occasions that she is interested in the nation's top job. Ever since her days on the Wasilla City Council, she has benefited from being grossly underestimated.
Most importantly, there may be no other politician who retains the level of devotion that Palin enjoys among millions of Americans. They may be in the minority, but they are certainly not lacking in zeal.
Of course, other national politicians attract passionate support, but with Palin's biggest fans, the devotion to the former Alaska governor resides on a deeply personal level that seems unique in American life.
"She's our family, and you protect your family; it's like the mafia," Coulter says. "She's just one of us, and when they insult her, they're insulting millions of us."