Political science senior Kristin Middleton, president of the ASU College Republicans, traveled to the Republican National Convention last week as Arizona’s youngest delegate at 21 years old.
Middleton was one of 57 delegates elected to represent Arizona in Tampa Bay, Fla.
Although Middleton was not the youngest delegate at the RNC — a distinction belonging to a 17-year-old Virginian — she attracted attention because of her age.
“I kind of stood out, being so young,” Middleton said.
Fellow Arizona delegate Arthur Cooper, 51, said he wishes there were more delegates like Middleton.
“She was a breath of fresh air,” he said. “It was nice to see delegates under the age of 65.”
Shane Wikfors, spokesman for the Arizona delegates, said Middleton was a great candidate because of her dedication to politics on a local Arizona level.
“Middleton would attend a lot of her legislative district’s meetings, even before she was able to vote,” Wikfors said. “She earned it.”
Middleton said she pursued a place on the Arizona delegation because she hoped to demonstrate the relevance of the Republican Party to her generation.
“I wanted to show the Republican Party is welcoming of young people,” Middleton said. “They haven’t done a good job of that in the past.”
Middleton approached the Romney campaign in the spring to suggest having a young person representing Romney for Arizona.
“They loved (the idea),” Middleton said.
A few months later, Middleton found herself on her way to Florida to be in the company of the nation’s conservative leaders.
Although the convention got off to an uncertain start with the threat of Hurricane Isaac canceling Monday’s events, Middleton said the experience was incredible.
“The first few days were a little eerie because we weren’t very sure about the hurricane,” she said. “We hoped and prayed that the people affected would be okay.”
Once the convention got underway, the days were action-packed.
A highlight for Middleton was witnessing the roll call, where the 50 states overwhelmingly pledged their delegates to the Romney-Ryan ticket, officially nominating them as the 2012 Republican presidential ticket.
“Mitt Romney is amazing,” Middleton said. “He did really well. We saw a personal side to Romney that we haven’t seen before ... He was more like an average family man.”
Paul Ryan provided a more focused address on the economy, Middleton said.
Although she loved hearing Romney speak, Middleton’s favorite moment of the convention was when former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stepped behind the podium.
“Her speech was so impactful,” Middleton said.
Rice’s description of growing up in a city still riddled with racism has remained imprinted in Middleton’s mind, she said.
“A little girl grows up in big-city America,” Rice said. “Her parents can’t take her to a movie theater or a restaurant, but they make her believe that even though she can’t have a hamburger at the Woolworth’s lunch counter, she can be president of the United States and she becomes secretary of state.”
“I loved how all the women speakers were so dynamic,” Middleton said.
As she walked around the convention, Middleton said she was amazed at the people she saw and the sheer amount of media in attendance.
According to statistics released by the RNC, members of the media outnumbered delegates nearly 4 to 1.
At one point, Middleton spotted political commentator Ann Coulter a few feet away from her, and had a short conversation with talk show host Sean Hannity.
As a member of the Arizona delegation, Middleton also had the opportunity to talk with Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett and Gov. Jan Brewer.
“She thought it was great I was there,” Middleton said.
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