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12-09-2007, 11:46 AM

By Beth LaMontagne
December 09, 2007 6:00 AM

There aren't many people who would pack up their family, head to a colder climate, and live in a small home with about 10 other people with the goal of helping elect their favorite candidate, but as Laura and Wesley Lounsbury will tell you, Ron Paul isn't your typical presidential contender.

The Lounsburys came to New Hampshire from a small town in Arizona last month to volunteer for the Ron Paul campaign as part of Operation Live Free or Die, an effort spearheaded by Google engineer and Washington state resident Vijay Boyapati. The project aims to bring 1,000 Paul volunteers to the Granite State before the Jan. 8 primary. Already, 400 people have signed up, and on Wednesday the group raised more than $50,000 to help these volunteers pay travel and lodging expenses.

"We saw this as an opportunity to make a difference in the state where Ron Paul has the best shot," said Wesley, who is drawn to Paul's conservative take on financial issues.

"It's an investment," Laura said. "If we really wanted Ron Paul to be president ... we knew we were going to have to come out here and do everything we can."

The Lounsburys are now staying in a rental home on Hampton Beach and adjusting to the cold weather. They've been spending their days canvassing Exeter and Portsmouth, sometimes for seven hours at a time with their 3-year-old daughter and 20-month-old son.

Laura, who is expecting her third child and has taken on the role as house leader, keeps track of the five to 10 volunteers who stay with them at any one time. She also does most of the cooking and makes sure they get up and out on the campaign trail each day.

Alex Hunter, a volunteer from Colorado who is staying at the beach house, said he came to New Hampshire because he believes in freedom, something he feels the Republican member of Congress from Texas will fight for as president. "It's hard not to want to come," he said.

Another volunteer, Roxi Collinson from Oklahoma, said she believes "Ron Paul could be the most important thing to happen to this country."

She decided to hit the trail for him, in part, because she wanted to show the media it doesn't choose the winning candidates the voters do.

Besides record-breaking Internet fund-raising efforts spearheaded by supporters outside of the official campaign, fans of Paul have been holding "meetups" and flocking to straw polls across the country throughout this campaign, using the Internet as their main organizational tool.

Operation Live Free or Die is no different.

Boyapati said when he started the project, he reached out to New Hampshire supporters like Jim Forsythe, who runs the grassroots Web site RonPaulHQ.com.

Forsythe, a resident of Barrington, offered his help and since then has worked to get out-of-state volunteers in touch with the campaign.

"Once they get here, the volunteers go to the campaign headquarters where they have campaign packets and offer a training course," Boyapati said. "A lot of people, it's their first campaign and they need that training course and need to know what to do going door to door."

Most campaigns try to rein in supporters who decide to promote a candidate outside the official realm of the campaign, but Paul has thus far embraced this style of campaigning.

"This is something we've experienced a lot in this campaign," said Kate Rick, spokesperson for Paul's New Hampshire campaign. "While other campaigns are wary of independent organizations putting effort into getting a candidate elected, the Ron Paul campaign welcomes the enthusiasm.. ... We are not officially involved in their effort, but we are certainly excited that people are willing to put the effort into helping the campaign."

This coming week, members of Operation Live Free or Die will head to Faneuil Hall in Boston to celebrate the anniversary of the Boston Tea Party and to bring attention to Paul's campaign.

Boyapati said the group also hopes to hold rallies in Manchester and Portsmouth in the days before the primary.