The family poses for a snapshot at Newt Gingrich's campaign headquarters in Greenville, S.C. Back row, left to right: grandmother Carolyn Ball with her daughter, Sondra Ziegler; Ziegler's 5-year-old son, Sam. Front row, left to right: 9-year-old Alexandra and 10-year-old Abigail Ziegler.
The family poses for a snapshot at Newt Gingrich's campaign headquarters in Greenville, S.C. Back row, left to right: grandmother Carolyn Ball with her daughter, Sondra Ziegler; Ziegler's 5-year-old son, Sam. Front row, left to right: 9-year-old Alexandra and 10-year-old Abigail Ziegler. Melissa Block/NPR
Sometimes it takes a family to campaign for a presidential candidate, and that's just what Melissa Block, co-host of NPR's All Things Considered, discovered while in South Carolina this week ahead of the state's Saturday primary.
Sondra Ziegler, a volunteer for GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich's campaign, is making herself useful any way she can — along with her three children and her mother.
Sondra decided to pack up her family and drive 22 hours from Lubbock, Texas, to Greenville, S.C., to volunteer for the former House speaker's presidential campaign. She persuaded her mother, Carolyn Ball, to volunteer as well. Ball drove from Lexington, Ky., to meet her daughter at a Greenville Holiday Inn, where they're all staying in one room.
It's not the first time Ziegler has followed Gingrich along the campaign trail this primary season: She also volunteered during the Iowa caucuses, traveling to Des Moines with her three home-schooled children, ages 5, 9 and 10.
Alexandra Ziegler, age 9, leafletting for Gingrich in Greenville, S.C.
Alexandra Ziegler, age 9, leafletting for Gingrich in Greenville, S.C. Melissa Block/NPR
"What I said to the kids was, 'If there's campaign work to be done, you can do campaign work, but otherwise you have to get your schoolwork done.' So of course they're hoping for campaign work every day," says Ziegler.
Ziegler says that at the age of 39, she had never been involved in a primary campaign. And at first, she didn't think Gingrich had a chance. But his early debate performances won her over, big time.
"It's what really tugged at my heart, made me think this is the guy, this is the candidate that we need to take our message and to win that argument with Barack Obama. I'm here because I feel like it's put up or shut up time," Ziegler tells Block.
And Ziegler's two older children are actively campaigning as well.
On Tuesday afternoon, they piled into a car and then filed out, ready to knock on doors. The Ziegler girls, blond ponytails bobbing, canvassed from house to house, pressing "21st Century Contract With America" leaflets into doorways. If someone answered the door, they responded with a personal appeal.
Abigail Ziegler, age 10, knocks on doors for Gingrich in Greenville, S.C.
Abigail Ziegler, age 10, knocks on doors for Gingrich in Greenville, S.C. Melissa Block/NPR
"Hi, my name's Abigail, and I'm volunteering on behalf of Newt Gingrich, and I was just hoping that you could tune in and watch the debate. It's on Thursday night at 9, and it's on CNN," said 10-year-old Abigail Ziegler.
"OK, I'll see what I can do. Thank you," said the prospective voter.
"OK. You're welcome," Abigail replied, and then moved on to her next duty as part of the grass-roots "Boots for Newt" team, a nickname for Gingrich volunteers.
Back at the campaign headquarters office, Sondra Ziegler and her family listen closely as Gingrich calls in to thank the volunteers around the state for all their work.
"It's exhausting to be here," Ziegler says. "But it's a good tired."
Ziegler and her family will stay in South Carolina through Saturday. Then it's back into their SUV, and home to Lubbock.