Last week, presumed Republican presidential hopeful John McCain told the Web site Politico that he did not know how many homes he owned. Then he went on vacation, leaving his staff - including Hermiston graduate Tucker Bounds, his deputy communications director - to deal with the fallout.

"We didn't have McCain to respond to Obama directly," Bounds said. "It was really challenging."

Responding to Obama's arguments is Bounds' job, one that he passionately believes in - even if it means doing all sorts of "wacky, terrible" things.

For example, he frequently gets phone calls from reporters determined to get the scoop on who will be named McCain's vice-presidential choice.

"You would not believe how many reporters there are who are working full time trying to figure out who it's going to be," Bounds said.

Perhaps it was Bounds' experiences at Hermiston High School that prepared him for the heady world of national politics. He was the editor-in-chief of the Bulldog, the student newspaper, and he played saxophone in the high school band.

Bounds graduated in 1997 and went on to earn a degree in political science from the University of Oregon. He then campaigned for a Eugene city councilman and Jon Kvistad, who ran for state treasurer. Bounds worked for Oregon senators Ron Wyden and Gordon Smith and, in 2004, headed up President Bush's re-election campaign in Oregon.

Bounds said it hasn't always been easy working for Republicans in Oregon. A lot of his friends are very liberal, he said, and, especially during Bush's re-election, they often gave him a hard time.

"There were some contentious exchanges, but I did support the president," he said. "Like everyone, at certain times I disagreed with (Bush). ... I've never worked for someone I agreed with 100 percent of the time."

Karen Bounds, Tucker's mom, teaches social studies at Hermiston High School. Having Tucker "out" as a Republican in such a big way, she said, has been a little weird.

"I teach government, and I make every effort to teach as neutrally as possible, but it's becoming somewhat obvious (that we're Republicans). Our family's the incredibly loyal type," she said.

For the Bounds family, she said, politics comes naturally. The family dinner table often featured political debates, and Roger Bounds, a banker, would bring home articles cut from the newspaper, which the family was expected to read and discuss.

"They've just grown up with it being a component of their lives," Karen said of her children.

The oldest Bounds child, Lorissa, is the legislative director for California Rep. Brian Bilbray, and Ryan Bounds is chief of staff in the Office of Legal Policy in the U.S. Department of Justice.

So, while Tucker is not the first Bounds kid to go into politics, right now he's definitely the most visible. His familiar face is popping up on television, magazines and the Internet at the center of a drama that is being watched by, it seems, everyone in the world.

"It's pretty crazy - to see someone from little Hermiston doing what he's doing," said Luke Davis, a longtime friend.

Although he enjoys his job, Bounds said someday he hopes to settle down and "live like a normal person." He would even like to move back to Eastern Oregon some day, he said.

"The trick is finding something to do for a living," he said. "There's not a lot of political work in Hermiston."

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