URBANDALE, IOWA — With just hours to go before Iowa voters go to caucus, even as Newt Gingrich's poll numbers slipped from their former lofty perch to fourth place, one of his most-fervent campaign staffers told MTV News on Monday that she's blocking it out and keeping her eye on the prize.
"I don't pay a lot of attention to those polls. ... I like to focus on the goal to the very end," said Myranda Kazos, an energetic political pixie who has moved into a hotel room in Des Moines and put her life on hold in order to help Gingrich finish strong in Iowa. "I'm here to work and do the very best I can."
Kazos, 21, plans to take her LSAT exam soon, but in the meantime, she said she's logging 18-hour days working for the Gingrich campaign. Her hoarse voice is a testament to the handful of all-nighters she's pulled, as well as all-in days during which the self-described Newt obsessive has made more than 900 calls to voters in an attempt to lock in their vote.
The history and political science major at the University of South Dakota first got involved in politics in 2006 and has been a proud conservative booster ever since. In fact, though she can't caucus again this year because she's a South Dakota resident, she has some strong reasons for coming out for Gingrich.
"I think he can beat Barack Obama," she said confidently, bucking the trend of the 41 percent of Iowa voters who were reportedly undecided as the big day loomed, according to a poll released Monday. "I think he has the résumé, the intellect, the charisma. ... I don't think the other ones can [beat Obama]. ... I believe in his policies 100 percent."
With the 7 p.m. Tuesday caucus hour fast approaching, the main Des Moines campaign offices for the former Speaker of the House were not as frantic as you might imagine.
Around lunch time (hot dogs and baked beans, bananas, cookies and lots of Diet Coke), more than a dozen campaign volunteers and staffers were working their cell phones as they made the final round of voter calls from a non-descript workspace tucked into a generic office park on the outskirts of town. (In fact, it was just around the corner from the slightly buzzier campaign headquarters of former Senator Rick Santorum, who had made a surprise surge over the past week to overtake Gingrich in the final polling.)
Across the room, a grade-school-age campaign worker markered a Newt sign ("Salute for Newt!") in the shadow of what looked like her other scrawled handiwork ("I Newt It!" "We've Got Nthusiasm!") as another plugged into her iTouch and dozed on a blanket in a far corner behind her mother's desk.
Kazos stressed that she's not a one-issue voter, but that there are several aspects of Gingrich's résumé that appeal to her.
"I like the concept of a candidate who has a broad spectrum of things that I like and a broad spectrum of things I think he could actually do," she said, naming a strong defense, his solid Christian conservative values, views on abortion and gay marriage, and a robust economy as her top concerns.
Among the other issues she said she agrees with Gingrich on is his immigration policy. "I like the fact that it's something that's realistic. ... If those people are gang members ... we'll target those ones and kick them out, but [otherwise] let's help people find a plan where they can stay, let's work on securing the border."
If you've been anywhere near a TV during the past week or so, it was impossible to avoid the landslide of negative ads against Gingrich, portraying him as a flip-flopper, Democrat sympathizer and lobbying machine.
But Kazos, who said she's too busy working to watch much TV, said she's proud that Gingrich has taken the high road and not lavished millions on attack ads against his rivals. "At the end of the day, I say, a conservative is someone who cares about the country. ... At the end of the day, we all agree that we don't want Barack Obama in office," she said. "We want a win for the conservative party, our values, our beliefs. If the other candidates truly wanted that the way I do, the way Newt does, they wouldn't attack the other candidates."
MTV is on the scene in Iowa! Head to Iowa.MTV.com for all our Iowa caucus coverage, and stick with PowerOf12.org throughout the presidential election season to follow Andrew Jenks on the campaign trail.