Young Hoosier delegates attend RNC
TAMPA, Fla. — In the crowded concourse outside the Republican National Convention floor, Nicolas Barbknecht stood with two other Indiana delegates.
Though his bus arrived late, Barbknecht made it to the floor long before College Republican National Committee Chairman Alex Shriver declared his support for Republican candidate Mitt Romney.
Shriver was blunt.
“Barack Obama has failed young Americans,” Shriver said. “We’re out of jobs, we’re out of hope and we’re out of change.”
At age 21, Barbknecht is the youngest of Indiana’s 46 convention delegates.
By the time he saw the convention floor for the first time, the day’s
proceedings had already begun. No surprise, Barbknecht said, but no stress, either.
Like the threat of foul weather and good-natured barbs from older delegates, the Manchester University senior shrugged off his late arrival.
He hadn’t gotten a chance to look at the day’s schedule, he said, but was looking forward to seeing Second Congressional District candidate Jackie Walorski’s remarks and the convention floor for the first time.
As an active supporter of the party and former Indiana state chairman for the College Republicans, he’s no stranger to the politics of a party convention. He became politically active in high school and hasn’t stopped since.
“This is the party that advances everything that I hold dear,” Barbknecht said.
While Barbknecht took his seat under Indiana’s sign, IU senior George Thomas was working outside the forum.
Thomas arrived in Tampa late Friday evening. As a volunteer with the GOP’s Caucus Operations office, he’s seen early mornings and late nights in the golf carts and checkpoints that make the convention chaos look like a neatly orchestrated event.
“The amount of work and effort and resources that goes into these events is incredible,” Thomas said. “It’s astronomical.”
Thomas helps coordinate the movements of the convention’s VIP guests.
It’s a job he found through his friendship with IU junior Bailey Gerber, who works as the executive assistant to the RNC’s program director.
Thomas and his golf cart recently helped transport the Romney grandchildren, car seats and all, back from a trip to the pool, Thomas said.
Every day is different. He’s happily chatted with Secret Service officers and run into actor Jon Voight.
While he is a Republican, his experience hasn’t been one based solely on party politics. Instead, he’s spent his time awed by the event’s magnitude.
Unlike Barbknecht, Thomas isn’t affiliated with College Republicans. They’re too far right, he said, while he likes to come to the middle on some issues.
“It’s not that I’m the biggest Republican,” Thomas said. “It’s more that I love the chance to be a part of something this big and this rare.”
Depending on the circumstances, he said he would probably have volunteered at the Democratic National Convention if he had been given the opportunity.
But, he added, “they probably wouldn’t want a Republican there.”
For Thomas, the excitement of convention lay in seeing the culmination of his planning played out on a national stage. The strength of American spirit makes him proud, he said.
“I’m political, I’m Republican,” Thomas said. “But that’s not gonna be the total focus of why I’m here.”
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