When College senior Abby Huntsman stands next to Sen. John McCain, she can see the scars on his face from his days as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. For her, these scars are tangible evidence of how much he's sacrificed for his country.
In fact, he's the most patriotic person she's ever met, she said.
That's why Huntsman has dedicated much of the last year to promoting the Arizona Republican's presidential campaign, both on the road and on campus, through her work as chairwoman of Penn's College Republicans and co-chairwoman of Pennsylvania College Students for McCain.
Having grown up in a political family -- her father is the current governor of Utah -- Huntsman is no novice when it comes to campaigning. Her first exposure came in 2004, when she chose to attend the University of Utah for her freshman year so she could be closer to her father's gubernatorial campaign.
Her father first met McCain three years ago, when the two men traveled to Iraq together, she said. Since then, the McCain and Huntsman families have become friends.
"He's like a grandfather figure to me," she said. "He's very down to earth and just a regular guy."
She hopes that's the impression students got when McCain came to speak on campus last semester.
"He's the type of guy who's been in politics for so long that people have lots of stereotypes about him... [but] they saw that he's a really fun guy," she said.
The visit was one of the campaign's largest events to date, according to McCain's director of events, Davis White, who praised Huntsman for taking the lead in coordinating McCain's appearance.
"With limited resources from the campaign she confirmed the venue, built a crowd and developed an event program," he wrote in an e-mail.
But while the speech was a success, there have been some tougher times.
Huntsman said one of the biggest challenges has been the constant ups and downs of watching her candidate compete for delegates and attention.
"With politics, every day there's something new in the paper; polls go up and down," she said. "As a McCain supporter, I never knew what was going to happen, so I needed to continue to have confidence in him. It's really exciting but also emotionally draining."
Another challenge has been supporting and promoting a Republican candidate on a liberal college campus.
"People always come up and try to debate issues with me... [but] McCain is such a moderate candidate that he's easier to work with."
On campus, Huntsman said her primary responsibilities as head of College Republicans are encouraging students to rally behind the senator and getting them excited about the election in general. She also helped collect the 2,000 signatures required for McCain to appear on the ballot in Pennsylvania.
As Election Day approaches, her work will become more grassroots in nature, she said.
"A lot of strategy depends on who pulls out on the Democratic side," she added. "If Obama is the nominee, then I will play a more active role [because] he appeals so much to students."
Huntsman also travels to campaign events with her parents. In February, for example, she went to a meeting of the National Governors Association, where McCain spoke to all of the Republican governors, including her father, who is a campaign co-chairman.
"What's so cool about campaigns is that you travel to so many places you've never been before and talk about the issues with so many people," she said.
Her active participation in the campaign also complements her Political Science major and her concentration in leadership.
Given her background, she says, "I'm pretty sure that politics will always be part of my life in some way.&quo;
© 2008 Daily Pennsylvanian via U-WIRE