Co-op Ben Adams (left) and alumnus Will Ritter (right) work on the advance team for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. Photo by Dominick Reuter.
It’s a weekday afternoon soon after Super Tuesday and Ben Adams and Will Ritter are working in a nondescript office building in Boston’s North End. They’re looking at a photo recently posted online that shows President Obama standing in a construction site for a new domestic pipeline project.
Even without reading a news story or hearing a sound bite from Obama, it’s clear that the commander in chief is talking about his energy policy. Ritter and Adams have been charged with staging an event the very next day at which their boss, former Massachusetts governor and current Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, will outline his own energy agenda.
“We’re looking at what he’s doing,” said Ritter, pointing at Obama’s image on the screen, “and we’re trying to make our stuff match that presidential level.”
Ritter, who graduated from Northeastern in 2006 with a double major in political science and communication studies, directs the campaign’s advance team, which organizes political events — often on very tight deadlines. Adams, a sophomore political science major, is on his first co-op but not his first campaign trail.
As a high-school student growing up in Charleston, W.Va., Adams volunteered to support 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain. For Romney, he plans high-profile events and occasionally travels with the candidate to states throughout New England.
On the stump, the pace is unrelenting and the stakes are high. Every event draws the scrutiny of hundreds — sometimes thousands — of attendees, and dozens of journalists from across the nation.
“The biggest thing is getting the job done and realizing that nothing cannot not happen,” Adams said, adding that he plans to stay on the campaign once he returns to class this July. “You’re making the impossible — or, at least, the very difficult — happen every day.”
Ritter says quick action is critical to planning successful events, many of which take place concurrently in several states. Even the smallest gaffe or misstep, he says, could resonate far longer than any stump speech.
“We have two or three live press events a day,” Ritter said. “That’s like producing two or three live TV shows every day, with no margin to get anything wrong.
“These little things might seem meaningless, but these events don’t just put themselves on,” he added. “It takes a lot of hard work, but you have to make it look effortless.”