IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — In her six months working for Carly Fiorina, Rebecca Schieber has learned to always have a Sharpie pen handy for autographs. She’s found ways to order the right vegetable-loaded meals on the road and become an expert at whisking her boss out of a room.
Fiorina’s Republican presidential campaign has served as a whirlwind political education for the 22-year-old, who graduated from Northwestern University in the spring.
“I don’t think the books I read in college at all prepared me for this experience,” says Schieber, a native of the Chicago suburbs who studied political science and American studies before coming to work for the GOP’s lone female presidential candidate.
Schieber has landed in a rare position on the presidential campaign trail— working as a “body woman.” The job isn’t to provide security, but rather to act as more of a personal assistant, adviser and sidekick. It is typically held by men, perhaps because most candidates in both parties are male. And this remains the kind of up-close-and-personal gig where gender still plays a role in hiring decisions. It’s not unusual for the aide to spend long days with the candidate, and late nights conferring in a hotel room.
Perhaps the best known “body man” around is Reggie Love, the college basketball star who became President Barack Obama’s aide in the 2008 campaign. He wrote of his experiences in a memoir: “Power Forward: My Presidential Education.”
Huma Abedin, who held the role on Hillary Rodham Clinton’s staff in the White House and during Clinton’s 2008 presidential race, is now a top adviser to Clinton’s 2016 campaign and travels with her frequently.
Fiorina said that Schieber plays a key role in her campaign — and she’s aware if the message it sends.
“Young women, I’m sure, look at Rebecca and say, ‘Wow isn’t that cool?'” Fiorina said. “And I think that’s great because it opens up another window of possibility for them.”
Since Schieber joined the campaign in March, Fiorina has steadily risen in the pack of Republican candidates. Fiorina’s popularity surged after two strong debate performances, and polls show she is now in the top tier of candidates. She has also been among the most vocal critics of Clinton, arguing she is in the best position to take Clinton on in a general election.
Schieber, a Republican who studied the 2012 presidential race at college, admits she didn’t know all that much about Fiorina when she first spoke to the campaign about the job. But she read the candidate’s books and started following the media coverage.
Her responsibilities include whatever the candidate needs: minding the schedule, keeping Fiorina on time for events, helping remember names, taking photographs — and sometimes the impromptu sing-a-long in the car.
Some things have gotten easier, like food. “Any day I can find a salad, a salad with extra vegetables, maybe a little goat cheese, those are good days,” Schieber said.
In dealing with crowds and campaign events, Schieber’s secret weapon isn’t her academic credentials, but the social skills she picked up from her mother, who teaches etiquette classes. Schieber says that poise helps her when she has to cut off a meeting or talk over people who are older or more experienced.
As the campaign heats up, Schieber is on the road a lot, but says her parents like the fact that “they can follow my life via Twitter and random news articles that I appear in the background.”
After months of logging 12-hour days together on the road, Schieber is able to anticipate Fiorina’s needs. In Iowa recently, she toted two purses — her black bag and Fiorina’s brown one — as they attended tailgate festivities at the University of Iowa. Schieber had hairspray, mints, pantyhose, hand sanitizer, trail mix at the ready and alternated seamlessly between offering water, a pen or taking photographs as Fiorina shook hands and posed for photos.
“I couldn’t do it without Rebecca. I really couldn’t,” Fiorina said. “She just takes on a set of things that I don’t have to worry about any more.”
For now, wherever Fiorina is headed, Schieber says she’ll be right behind her. Next up, is to “be the personal assistant for the president of the United States.”