The Daly grind

The first time he tried to volunteer for a presidential campaign, Pat Daly got the shaft.

An exuberant Daly, then 15, visited his local GOP headquarters expecting to get a hands-on experience in political campaigning. Instead he waited. And waited. After waiting for two hours, a woman running for the school board finally noticed him and gave him a job: Pick up trash around the office. Frustrated, Daly walked out.

The second time the Northwestern law student tried to volunteer for a presidential campaign, he hit the jackpot.

Still eager, Daly last October signed up to volunteer for the campaign via George W. Bush’s Web site. And this time, Daly says, his youth worked to his advantage because the GOP is trying to attract young voters to help the campaign. In lieu of garbage duty, the Bush-Cheney campaign has charged him with the task of reaching students from 46 colleges in upstate Illinois.

Daly, 23, embodies a typical third-year law student: pressed slacks, button-down shirt, tasteful tie, Palm Pilot. But as the Bush-Cheney campaign’s youth director for upstate Illinois, Daly, who averages four hours of sleep each night, stretches himself far beyond writing briefs.

“He’s one heck of a worker,” says Patrick McHenry, the national youth director for Bush-Cheney 2000. “Pat Daly is an integral part of the campaign.”

The campaign’s student coalition, called Students for Bush-Cheney, has 500 chapters at campuses across the country. The College Republicans at NU, in fact, are sponsoring an event at 7 p.m. today in University Hall Room 121, during which Daly will speak.

With the El train rumbling by every 15 minutes, Daly works from an enclave in his one-bedroom apartment on Sheffield Avenue. He has plotted every school within a 50-mile radius of Chicago. Four colored maps line his walls. One of them looks like a glorified pincushion, dotted with dozens of multicolored pinheads. But even in the midst of his pushpin frenzy, Daly’s penchant for organization shines through.

The maps, replete with a color-coded pushpin key, track the progress of Daly’s one-man mission. The red-headed pins mean Daly has gone nowhere with the campus. Yellow means he’s in the process of establishing contact. Green means he’s getting there, and blue means he’s spoken there.

“My goal is to make the entire map blue,” Daly says.

Drawing parallels with the Texas governor’s self-proclaimed compassionate conservatism, Daly hopes to speak at every college campus in upstate Illinois, including private schools such as Wheaton College — traditionally a bastion of Christian (and often Republican) fundamentalism — and city schools such as Malcolm X College, a historically black (and Democratic) school.

“It’s important to get the message out — to say that we were at least there,” he says.

Daly does not disregard younger students, either, even if they are not old enough to vote. He says he has never blown off opportunities to speak at high schools or even junior high schools.

An aspiring litigation lawyer, Daly also sees his speeches as exercises in persuasive speaking. Ditching visual aids that he says detract from his message, Daly tries to converse with students on their level, with a lot of “give-and-take.”

“Jesus never used Power Point when he preached the Sermon on the Mount,” Daly says.

Daly is more than a state youth director for a major presidential campaign. And he’s more than a law student hunting for a job.

The Chicago Heights native also serves as a precinct captain for Maine Township. He works for State Sen. Chris Lauzen of Aurora, Ill. He maintains the Republican Web site for Will County. He is a teaching assistant for a negotiations class that meets six hours each week. He even finds time to go to class. And maybe study, too.

So how does he function?

“I never usually feel sleep — or energy — deprived because I don’t have time to,” Daly says. “And because I love what I am doing.”

The walls of his apartment reflect not only his work but also his life as a student. Sure, he has pictures smacked up on his work-room walls of Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), former vice presidential candidate Jack Kemp and President Ronald Reagan. Still, Daly is a student. His walls hold Michael Jordan posters, not to mention a full suit of body armor, which he says reminds him of his high school days in South Carolina as a West Florence Knight. Other walls of his apartment bear tributes to Budweiser, Michael Jackson, Tupac and NWA.

“My friends call me MC-GOP,” jokes the dark-haired, brown-eyed Daly, a fan of both rap and Republicans.

Daly even partied with the politicians when he hit the GOP’s convention this summer in Philadelphia.

“I would be in a Conga line and have a congressman in front of me and a senator behind,” Daly says. “I almost went to the Democratic Convention just for the parties.”

But Daly likely will not have time to party as the Nov. 7 election draws nearer. He will only donate more time to the GOP, making a frenzied tour of area schools to talk up Bush’s plans for Social Security and Medicare.

“It’s tough because they’re not traditionally sexy issues,” Daly says. Yet public speaking never fails to energize Daly, who says he thinks his “best skills would be squandered” by sitting in a cubicle.

“(Working on the campaign) has been my dream come true,” says Daly, adding that he will always stay active in politics and maybe even campaign himself. “If I feel impassioned about something, I might just throw my hat in the ring.”