CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Evan Draim has his own assistant to manage his schedule. He has an entourage. He's done as many interviews in the past two weeks as some of Mitt Romney's top surrogates, maybe more.
This for a kid who can't even vote yet.
At 17, Draim is the youngest delegate at the Republican National Convention. The Alexandria native turns 18 on Sept. 14, meaning he's eligible to vote Nov. 6 and, so, eligible to serve as a delegate this week in Tampa.
But this isn't even Draim's first convention. While most eighth-graders would have been content with cash as a graduation gift, Draim asked his parents to take him to Richmond for the Virginia Republican convention in 2009. He's been hooked ever since.
"This entire experience has made me fall in love with the Republican Party and the conservative movement so much more," Draim said of his moment in the spotlight.
Young voters were a powerful force in the 2008 campaign, turning out in unusually high numbers to help boost President Obama to victory over Republican John McCain. Draim is in Tampa to become the face of a new era of Republican voters, hoping to reach out to peers who are traditionally Democratic and unreliable voters on Election Day.
"I think more young people need to have their voices heard through voting and also in becoming engaged in the political process," Draim said. "I'm here to convey the message of how conservatism is benefiting young Americans."
Draim doesn't come from a particularly political family. Bob Draim, his father who is a guest of the delegation in Tampa, said he remembers staying up late to watch the conventions. "Ironically, in 1968, George Romney was my favorite candidate," he said. But Bob Draim never really involved himself in the political process.
"It is amazing to watch him," Bob Draim said of his son. "Evan is such an incredibly motivated person. He's very serious about what needs to be done to help the Romney-Ryan ticket.
"As a parent, there's nothing more personally satisfying than to see him here."
In addition to working on Romney's behalf, the young Draim is also helping Republican Senate candidate George Allen in Virginia and remains active in the debate team and the Young Conservative Coalition at St. Stephen's & St. Agnes School in Alexandria. He's also a varsity swimmer and a good student, his dad noted.
Entering his senior year, Draim is already thinking about college and what he wants to do with this summer's crash course in political efficacy.
"I know I want to go into government," Draim said, "and give back to my country in some way."