Meet Mitt's biggest fan

Jim Wilson has traveled 62,000 miles across 37 states -- and the candidate thanked him today with a new truck

Published June 28, 2012 12:32AM (EDT)

Jim Wilson may be Mitt Romney’s number one fan, and the campaign may have just dropped $13,900 to buy him a new truck, but that doesn’t mean they’ll give him a microphone.

“Boston, headquarters, if they saw Wilson with a live mic, they would all shit cottage cheese for a week,” he told Salon outside a Romney campaign stop in Sterling, Virginia this evening. “But I would not ever do damage to him.”

Wilson, 70 and trim with white hair, came the Washington suburb near Dulles Airport because he’s been to pretty much every Romney event since the state fair in his native Iowa last August, but also take possession of the new truck Romney bought him. Wilson’s old one, a 1998 white pickup emblazoned with giant Romney signs, was a fixture outside countless Romney stops as he drove 62,000 miles across 37 states to follow the candidate like a Phish fan. That truck mysteriously caught fire on the highway last week. (On a completely unrelated note, Wilson seems to be constantly smoking a pipe and tapped it against the sole of his shoe to empty it as we spoke.) The Romney campaign, fearing the potential loss of their unofficial mascot, stepped in to buy Wilson an upgrade, a 2003 Chevy Silverado, also white.

Wilson picked up the truck from the dealership Tuesday, but he came to Sterling Wednesday evening to pose for some photos as Romney personally presented the fan with his new vehicle. “I don’t know if i’m supposed to act surprised or not, but I drove it here, so -- it’s all showbiz, right?” he said before the ceremony. Later, at the photo-op, Romney surprised Wilson by throwing in a fire extinguisher as well, “Just in case!” Wilson lifted the red extinguisher above his head, and hollered, “The trophy! We’re safe at last.”

“Who said there was no free truck?” he beamed while speaking with Salon before the event, standing in the parking lot with a knot of volunteers, all at least 50 years his junior, who gathered around him like a celebrity.

For a campaign that has struggled with a lack of enthusiasm, Wilson has it in spades. “America is about to fall in love with Mitt Romney -- you watch,” he says confidently. He even has the same birthday as Ann Romney, the candidate’s wife. Despite his efforts, time, and plenty of money, he’s not  on staff -- “I’m just the ugly cousin.” Would he want to be formally on board? “Hell no! I’m doing this for my grandkids. Besides, I can tell them to fuck off, you know? And at my age, I’ve been known to do that.”

Wilson, who comes from a family deeply involved in Republican politics and has worked in the field himself, says he does more than just hold solo pep rallies for candidate. “I have a network or dear old friends who feed me dynamite ideas, so I put those forward...both to him and to the folks in Boston, [senior adviser Ed] Gillespie. And a couple of days later, I see it in his speech, and I see it in print,” he said.

But not for much longer: “This is my last campaign. I do not want to be one of those old farts who can’t cut it, you know?” “I’m going to drive this sucker until he wins. My last political event is going to be doing security at one of the inaugural balls. Then I’m going back to the farm,” he said. “The problem is, this truck is in such good shape, I’m going to have to buy a junker truck to use on the farm.”

“You know,” he said, getting serious. “Your parents lied to you?” And I am living proof that you don’t ever have to grow up. Don’t do it.” And with that, he was off to hug the local TV news reporter doing a standup interview across the street.

By Alex Seitz-Wald

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2012 Elections Mitt Romney