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Living the presidential campaign

The 2012 presidential election is finally over, and what seemed like one of the most ardent battles between two campaigns has settled down and come to a cease fire. After months of relentless work, those who volunteered or interned with these campaigns are returning back to normal life.

Take Joe LaPaille, 21, who can now return focus to his 18 credit hours, rugby practices, and social life. Since the end of June, LaPaille has been a communications intern for President Obama’s campaign. Logging upwards of 50 hours a week in the summer and 20 hours a week during the semester, the senior communication major, who is also double minoring in sport management and marketing, simply says, “I was busy as hell.”

As a communications intern, LaPaille worked closely with Vice President Joe Biden’s press secretary and the deputy chief of staff and monitored the media to see how it was covering the campaign.

“I would wake up at 5 a.m. to see what the first news stories were that day,” he says.

Every weekday morning, LaPaille would create a document containing news on campaign activity, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, and the latest polls. He then sent this document to the White House for Vice President Biden to read and stay informed on the latest movements.

On the weekends, LaPaille woke up at 4 a.m. to send e-mails to the Biden campaign staff and the White House staff containing national news stories on the campaign and administration.

In early October, LaPaille received the opportunity to travel to Lexington and Danville, KY, for the vice presidential debate. He sat in a room outside the debate hall monitoring Twitter and social media to see what elements of Vice President Biden’s segments were gaining the most public attention. He synthesized the information and ensured the surrogates’ talking points for the media were up to date.

“My role was more ‘internship-like’ there, but the trip allowed me to see how a major communication operation is orchestrated, especially when the stakes were high,” LaPaille says.

One of his other responsibilities that night was to “staff” Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood, meaning he took her to various interviews in the spin room where surrogates go after the debate to talk with the media.

Along with the vice presidential debate, another of LaPaille’s most memorable days was when he monitored a speech Vice President Biden gave over the summer that stirred up a media frenzy with a comment that the Republican approach to fix the economy would “put y’all back in chains.”

“Throughout that day, I sent every story with that comment to the press secretary [so we could] push back the statement. It changed the entire scope of my responsibility,” LaPaille says.

One of the perks of working for President Obama’s campaign was that LaPaille had a ticket to join the celebration at McCormick Place on Election Night. He says being in that crowd reaffirmed why he wanted to work on the campaign.

“Seeing people just falling to their knees in tears because the president had won really shows why I put the work in. There are certain people who really need him as our president during this time in our country, and I’m thankful I could help make that happen,” LaPaille says.

The following day, LaPaille was at the campaign headquarters in Chicago when President Obama stopped by to thank the campaign workers for their work over the past year. LaPaille listened as the president delivered his emotional expression of gratitude and waited his turn to shake President Obama’s hand as the presidential re-elect individually greeted every person who was there.

Now that the election is over, LaPaille can immerse himself back into his school work and social life, but his experience on the Obama campaign is one that will not escape him anytime soon. He is confident that his work as a communication intern made a difference in this election.

“Even as mundane as intern tasks may be, the work I did was different,” he says. “I helped senior staffers to be well-informed. It makes you feel like more than an intern.”

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