A Riverside college student got to see high-level politics close up last week. Molly Ely, a 19-year-old sophomore at Centre College, helped out Paul Ryan and the Republicans at last week’s vice presidential debate held at the school in Danville, Ky.
“I’m a member of the Centre College Republicans, and we got a group together and we greeted Paul Ryan at the airport which was very exciting,” Ely said. “He’s a very nice guy. He took the time to shake everybody’s hand and that really surprised me.”
Ely got a chance to say a few words to Ryan when he posed for a photo with her and a friend.
“My dad told me that if I got the opportunity to speak with him that I should remind him that my dad calls his Kenosha office regularly, so I definitely made sure I mentioned that,” Ely said.
Immediately after meeting Ryan, Ely was interviewed by a reporter for the Louisville Courier Journal newspaper and was quoted in that paper’s story about Ryan’s arrival.
“He talked to me right after I met Paul Ryan and I was still a little bit speechless, a little bit star struck,” Ely said.
On debate day Ely and her fellow Centre College Republicans tried to create a visible Republican presence on the campus and in front of the television cameras.
“We were told we should wear as much red and as much Republican stuff as possible, because MSNBC was filming in front of our library,” Ely said. “We were holding Romney/Ryan signs and trying to get them in the background of Chris Matthews’ show and other anchors.”
Ely watched the debate from the media center which was in Sutcliffe Hall, the athletic center at Centre College. As soon as the debate ended, Ely escorted Republican spokesman Kyle Downey into the scrum called “Spin Alley” where various surrogates and spokespeople met with reporters after the debate.
Prior to the debate being over Ely got to hear the spinners being instructed on what to say.
“In the room that we had to pick up our surrogates we actually heard them being coached on what they were going to tell the media once they got to Spin Alley,” Ely said. “They would say things like Paul Ryan won the debate because of this, this and this so they wanted to make sure that they were all on the same page.”
Ely held up a sign so that reporters could find Downey, a Republican operative who served as the press secretary for the Republican National Convention.
Ely said she was bit surprised by the degree of message coordination.
“I knew it was going to be spun, but I didn’t know how uniform it all was,” Ely said. “I thought that whenever you hear people talking politics on the TV or read about it in the newspaper that the people kind of come up with that on their own,” Ely said. “I didn’t know that they kind of like meet together and kind of get on the same page.”
Ely found the whole experience exciting.
“I’ve always been interested in politics because my parents are,” Ely said. “I’ve always been politically informed and literate in that field, but now that I’ve seen it up close and how it works and met some of the key players I’m definitely more interested.”