Is This Muslim Republican Mr. Right or the Big Cheese?

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And Seeme has continued supporting her son. Back at the kitchen table, Ali mentioned that White, it seemed, had somehow gotten his hands on Ali's poll. Seeme knew that the survey wasn't as flattering as her son had hoped. Even so, the $3,500 study wasn't meant to be public. Seeme suggested a "mini-lawsuit" to rectify the situation. The two continued talking late into the evening, wondering if the poll had been leaked, and who besides White may have gotten their hands on it. The betrayal, they reasoned, could have gone all the way to the top of the state's Republican Party. "I'd hate to sue the party and the leadership," Ali said. "I want to know what they know about this and if they are involved."

A few days later, Republican state chairman Dick Wadhams said he'd never seen the poll, nor did he know anyone who did. He wouldn't comment on whether Ali had talked with him about a lawsuit, but he cautioned that it would be "unwise" and said that it "wouldn't make me feel good about him."

Before Ali retired for the night, he wandered through a guest bedroom and came across a family servant (one of five who typically staff the mansion) who was getting ready to leave. He greeted her warmly. Should I stick with SD-8, he asked in a pleading voice, or go into HD-56? Stick with 8, she said. I know you'll do fine.

It was the first time anyone had said that all day.

The next day, Ali was in a brighter mood. He had taken the morning off and showered in the late afternoon, buttoning his large torso into a pastel checkered shirt with ribbons down the front. At dusk he traveled to Glenwood Springs with Nottingham and Miller, where the Young Republicans group he founded was hosting a mock presidential debate. He was supposed to play Rudy Giuliani but had barely had time to practice his role. Miller, on the other hand, was in a frenzy: The Democrats she'd scheduled had canceled at the last minute, leaving her and another young Republican to act as Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Other Republicans had deserted, too. Ali's Giuliani would be joined only by a Montrose woman posing as Fred Thompson. Miller asked Ali if he'd prepared for the debate, and he whipped out his iPhone to scroll though Giuliani's web page.

The team arrived at Sacred Grounds in Glenwood Springs, a spacious brick coffee shop that doubles as a Segway rental store. Ali and Miller checked the microphones, and Nottingham pulled a video camera out of a bag. The debate yielded more than a dozen audience members, and though Ali was the only mock candidate who didn't bring notes, he was the loudest in each point he made, tapping his foot quickly until it was his turn to speak again. At the end of the debate, Ali stepped up from his stool.

"I admire everyone who is here," he said to the assemblage, switching out of Giuliani mode and growing more animated with each word. "When I started running in SD-8, I thought I would get support. Then I got phone calls saying that I should sit down. My mother said, 'I am going to call the state party.' She said, 'Chairman Wadhams, I didn't leave Pakistan so that we couldn't have a primary. Can you tell your people that a primary energizes people?' I am excited. I filed paperwork for this district. It is important that we send a message to Denver and D.C.: We don't need to listen to the kingmakers!"

The audience clapped and cheered. Ali smiled and then walked toward them to shake some hands.

That night, as the team prepared to leave Glenwood Springs, Nottingham realized he couldn't find the keys to the Suburban. He'd given them back to Miller, he said. But she couldn't find them, either. Ali looked concerned. "Nobody is in trouble," he said.

"You're sure you didn't have them?" he asked Miller, who was busy emptying her purse on the sidewalk outside of Sacred Grounds.

They returned to the coffee shop to look under chairs and couches. After a few minutes, Ali dialed a roadside assistance company to ask about having a new key made. "If I don't have OnStar, I'll buy it," he said into his iPhone. "It doesn't matter how much it costs." Ali later decided to have the car towed to a dealership.

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Naomi Zeveloff