At a rented YMCA camp lodge outside the town of Boone in central Iowa, young Ron Paul volunteers are preparing for Tuesday's caucuses under a veil of secrecy. When I stopped by on Saturday, after driving down a winding gravel road surrounded by woods and farmland, the place appeared deserted, aside from a couple cars and a white van with a Ron Paul sign in the window. "At Y camp you don't have to make friends, they're given to you," a sign greeted me near the the Pioneer Hybrid Outdoor Education Center where the volunteers work.
In Ron Paul's case, those friends are hundreds of out-of-state college students who paid their own way to travel to Iowa in support of their libertarian hero. On Wednesday, the New York Times reported that once they arrive at the camp, the volunteers are "under strict orders" to "look, dress, shave, sound and behave in a way that will not jeopardize Mr. Paul’s chances." That means no boozing, no visible tattoos, and no scraggy beards (although I did spot a guy with earrings). Or as one volunteer from Ithaca, New York, told the Times, "What would Ron Paul do?"
The volunteers have also been told "not to speak to journalists or make postings on social media sites about their activities in Iowa," the Times explained. That became immediately clear on Saturday, when I walked into a meeting room where about 20 volunteers prepared campaign flyers. "Are you with the media?" a young woman asked as someone turned off the music. I was ordered to leave the room, and after I was told that I could "absolutely not" take a flyer with me a woman shut the door to the lobby behind me. A young man watched me intently from behind a glass window as he called someone on his phone.