The wind whips across the plains and through cornfields on a cold winter morning in Iowa.
The thermometer reads close to zero, but Eric Smith knows with the wind-chill, it will feel more like -20 degrees. He has another 12-hour day ahead of him, knocking on doors for GOP primary candidate Ron Paul before the Iowa Caucuses.
During his two-and-a-half weeks in Iowa last December, Smith shared his political philosophy with thousands of people, some of whom were even less hospitable than the weather.
“You’ll have people who answer the door, hear you’re from the Ron Paul campaign, then just slam the door in your face,” Smith said.
He paused to think.
“You know, it was a lot of work, but it was a lot of fun,” Smith said.
Most would never consider working in subzero temperatures or experiencing regular verbal abuse “fun,” but Smith learned to take it all in stride — just another day of sharing his passion for liberty and politics.
Smith has come a long way from his family home in Ohio, where he grew up steadfastly supporting the Republican Party.
An avid sportsman, Smith enjoys hunting and shooting. Like his father, he thought Republicans would best protect his gun rights.
But the 2008 presidential race left Smith disillusioned.
He watched the debates leading up to the Republican primary, and while the message of Ron Paul resonated with him the most, McCain came out the winner.
“I voted for McCain. But the day after the election, when he had lost, I thought that I wouldn’t be that happy if he had won,” Smith said.
The race was a turning point in Smith's life.
Smith wanted a candidate who would support his right to bear arms, but also fight against federal attempts to define marriage and to end the war on drugs. Spurred by Paul's message in the debates and by a libertarian friend from his dorm, he decided to learn more.
“I really liked the message Ron Paul was sending, so I read one of his books,” Smith said. “That’s when I realized I was a libertarian.”
Before long, Smith had amassed a library of works by Paul and other libertarian writers.
What he read inspired him to make the 10-hour road trip to Iowa to work for the Paul campaign before the 2012 caucuses, and to work for the Paul campaign in Virginia during the primary.
Smith became the de facto head of Paul’s efforts in Blacksburg and surrounding areas. Paul won those primary elections in Montgomery County, and neighboring Craig, Floyd, and Pulaski counties. Though Paul lost the state to Romney, he received more than 40 percent of Virginia’s popular vote.