LSA sophomore Kelly Bernero’s summer job required 14-hour workdays, paid nothing and threatened to permanently damage her eyesight.

But if Hillary Clinton wanted an e-mail by a certain time that listed every article in New Hampshire that mentioned her that day, Bernero was going to make sure she got it.

“Every day in the morning and afternoon we had to compile an e-mail that had any article in the state of New Hampshire that had Clinton in it. We had to put the link in the e-mail,” Bernero said. “That was in the morning and then at night before we left, every day. We worked from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m. It was ridiculous hours.”

While Bernero was peddling the Clinton line in New Hampshire, other University students spent the summer working for their own preferred presidential candidates – completing the menial daily tasks that are the vital grease on the wheels of a full-steam presidential campaign. But between the stamp licking and media soliciting, many interns come face to face with a side of American democracy that could shake the dedication of any young political idealist.

In addition to compiling articles, Bernero, whose father is the mayor of Lansing, spent the rest of her time alerting the press to Clinton’s many public appearances in the state and canvassing neighborhoods to reiterate her candidate’s dedication to the people of New Hampshire, who at the time of Bernero’s internship were favoring Clinton with an about 25-point lead in the polls.

Going door to door in New Hampshire for a presidential campaign is how Bernero came to really understand the difference the state’s early primary date makes. For one thing, she said, New Hampshirites tend to feel entitled to special treatment.

“In New Hampshire, it’s kind of like Iowa: They’re used to being first, and they love all the attention,” Bernero said. “When you’re going door to door they’re like ‘Well, I haven’t made my decision about who I’m going to support because I never pick a candidate before I meet them all. If I don’t meet them, then I just won’t vote for them. And if they don’t come close to my house then I won’t vote for them.’ They’re really spoiled.”

One 50-year-old resident was more interested in the issues than the attention, Bernero said. He wanted to know, from the perspective of an idealistic, 20-year-old college student, how Clinton would deal with global warming.

“So I’m talking to him about alternative resources, the 50-billion-dollar energy fund, blah blah blah,” Bernero said. “He was like, ‘Actually, the only solution is if we curb the population of the world. So we need to start killing more people. We need more wars.’ I was like, ‘If that’s how you feel, I really don’t think Hilary is your candidate. She’s not going to start more wars.’

School of Music, Theatre and Dance senior Andrew Kurland said he also encountered confrontational voters when interning for former Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich in the U.S. representative’s congressional office.

Kurland said the biggest challenge in answering phones for Kucinich was having to keep up a friendly persona when talking to callers who had called only to unload a barrage of criticism of Kucinich on a faceless intern. No matter what abuse spewed forth from the phones, it was the responsibility of office employees to always act as a representative of Kucinich, who would never want to snub a potential swing voter with a sharp retort.

“So when someone calls and tells me how much they hate Kucinich, I can’t defend the guy,” Kurland said.

Run-ins with interesting people didn’t stop at the phones, though. While working the front desk, Kurland got to meet the Dalai Lama’s spiritual advisor, an “America’s Next Top Model” winner and a man who advocated for better relations between the United States and its extraterrestrial visitors.

“There was a gentleman who came in who had reports on aliens,” Kurland said. “He seemed to be very in touch with the possibility of life on other planets and that they had contacted us and they wanted to help us because they had technology that they might use to help with global warming. He wanted to bring this to the attention of Dennis.”

Working in the congressional office, Kurland was able to develop a much more personal relationship with Kucinich than Bernero did with Clinton. While Bernero only met her candidate a few times in rushed, ceremonial meet and greets, Kucinich took a personal interest in his interns. After Kucinich found out about Kurland’s love for music, he made it a point to assign him memos relating to the arts.

“I worked another internship with (Sen. Carl Levin) who was very much compartmentalized, very separate,” Kurland said. “This wasn’t the case; I had a lot of interaction with him.”

Throughout their relationship, there was one issue regarding Kucinich’s voting record that caused Kurland to confront the congressman about his politics. That happened when Kucinich voted against a congressional bill to remove troops from Iraq by April.

“I talked to him and said, ‘What happened?’ ” Kurland said. “(Kucinich) said, ‘The bill’s a fake. The bill’s a fake. I want the troops home now.’ Basically he saw this bill as a stand-in. He wanted the troops home now, and not April.”

This incident sparked a series of discussions between the two that gave Kurland a keen admiration for the “stern, yet charismatic” candidate.

LSA senior Sarah Scully only encountered her preferred candidate, Mitt Romney, once. That was at a fundraiser she attended while interning at his Michigan headquarters in Farmington. But for Scully, who skipped a semester at the University to promote Romney’s nomination, the people on the grassroots level of the campaign were the most telling representation of American politics.

Scully, who identifies as a Republican but tends toward some more liberal social views, said she sometimes felt like an outsider when conversations about politics between campaign workers seemed to read from a Republican rhetoric handbook.

She said her peers called her out when they were talking about the arguments against gay marriage and she had nothing to contribute.

“That was one of the moments, that I was like, ‘Umm, I’m not so sure about that one,’ ” she said. “(One person) asked me what my deal was, why I wasn’t saying anything. I said, ‘Well, I’m not sure I agree with you.’ “

Scully said the group talking about gay marriage was respectful of her different views, but that political disagreement wasn’t the only reason she might have asked herself what she was doing in her internship.

“I never knew what I was doing when I walked in there, ever,” she said. “Sometimes that was a pleasant surprise, sometimes it wasn’t.”

While she found her work to be stressfully erratic at times, it was also often infuriatingly simple.

“I don’t feel like I was using the skills that I have,” Scully said. “You don’t need to be a brain trust to be doing the things that I was doing. There were people that would come in and were 16-years-old that were perfectly capable of doing everything that I did.”

Scully said her most challenging task came in the form of impromptu party planning for a shindig the office wanted to hold for high-profile Romney supporters during a debate.

“On my first full day my office manager came over and said, ‘We’re going to throw a debate party now.’ So I had to call big donors in the area and started getting the projector together,” Scully said. “I really just remember sitting there saying ‘Oh my gosh, what if nobody comes?’ because this was all on me.”

Luckily for Scully, she made the right phone calls and was able to put together a successful soirée. As was the case for other interns who were made to shoulder similar high-pressure duties for their campaigns, Scully said organizing the event challenged her dedication at first, but that ultimately seeing an aspect of the campaign come together under her own direction reaffirmed her enthusiasm for Romney and the political system.

“Eight o’clock rolls around and all these people start to show up,” she said. “We’re all sitting there watching this debate, and you can just feel the energy in the room. Everyone was just so supportive and it was such a cohesive group. That was the moment that I felt like I was a part of something.”

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