As passing cars honk their support, Loesch presses on. "What is Congress going to say next? 'Hey, you didn't choose to exercise your right to carry a firearm, so we're going to fine you and/or put you in jail for it'?" Eventually she turns toward the McCaskill storefront office's shuttered blinds. "A vote for this legislation, Claire McCaskill, is a vote to nationalize! It's a vote against individual liberty!"

Two protesters awaiting entry to the office offer their spot in line to Loesch because, as one woman says, she "can fuss louder than we can, and [she] can get on the radio!"

But Loesch is less activist and more spokeswoman when she breaches the inner sanctum with five others and sits down for a chat with Mattie Moore, deputy director of McCaskill's local headquarters. Only when Loesch's fellow conservatives begin to digress or talk above each other does she interject to refocus the message. She is gracious, diplomatic and complimentary of some of McCaskill's recent actions. "We just ask that the senator listen to the majority of her constituents. We're not against reform. We want reform — just not this way, and we hope the senator listens."

Loesch was a liberal when she met Chris, left, who wooed her despite his political-right leanings and then brought her into the conservative tent.
Loesch was a liberal when she met Chris, left, who wooed her despite his political-right leanings and then brought her into the conservative tent.

With that Loesch arises, effectively calling an end to the meeting.

Back outside, she considers the day a success. Police were present, but nobody was arrested. Moreover, McCaskill's staffers welcomed discussion. "I think she's a very smart politician," concludes Loesch. "[Democratic Missouri Congressman] Russ Carnahan could take some notes."

Loesch's political coming of age — or, "becoming a traitor," as her left-leaning mother likes to joke — is not to be confused with her political coming-out.

Loesch grew up in a clan of Southern Baptists and Southern Democrats, scattered across Wayne, Iron and Jefferson counties in eastern Missouri. The blue-collar family pooh-poohed public discussions of politics and religion, according to her mother, Gale Eaton, who adds, "Dana is spunky and strong-willed, like my mom. But Mom was very private, even with her thoughts. If you asked a question that was not nice, she would tell you if you were out of line."

Eaton worked two jobs to provide for her only child, having split from Loesch's father when Dana was five. Loesch says volatile family dynamics landed her in therapy as a child and teenager and turned her into a self-described man-hater who never wanted to marry.

At Fox High School in Arnold, Loesch was seduced into political activism by a liberal history teacher. Role-playing Bill Clinton, she won a class debate. "I always told her she needed to be an attorney or a politician," says Eaton, "because she can't stand to be wrong and will research to death to get everything that she needs [for her argument]."

Loesch attended St. Louis Community College at Meramec before transferring to Webster University to study journalism. She dropped out after meeting her husband-to-be, Chris, then a graphic designer who sang in a local punk band, wearing black eyeliner and nail polish. "He was a total Romeo," says Loesch, who sported a pixie haircut and pierced nose back in those days. "I'll sound like a total airhead, but when you meet someone, you just know. I had a lot of ease around him that I'd never felt before."

Chris Loesch was a Republican. Dana didn't care. After a three-month courtship, the couple tattooed their ring fingers with Gaelic letters ("C" for her, "D" for him) and took their vows.

Loesch's mother says Dana, then twenty-two, and Chris, seven years her senior, would debate politics fiercely. Recalls Eaton: "Dana would just be pumping her fist. 'You're wrong, Chris! You're wrong!'"

Soon came the birth of the couple's first son, Liam, an event Loesch gets a kick out of narrating in all its gory, painful detail (and has done so in cyberspace). She did it old-school, sans drugs, with plenty of shrieking and her mother-in-law videotaping the whole thing: chaotic and surreal, she says, "like a Wes Anderson movie." Loesch opted for an epidural when it was time to push out her second son, Ewan. "I've had bowel movements that were harder than that birth," she sums up.

Six months after Liam arrived, the Twin Towers crumbled — and with them Loesch's left-wing leanings. She says she watched her infant playing in front of the television as the second tower went down and thought, What did we bring him into?

Says Chris Loesch: "9/11 was the deal sealer for Dana."

Blogs then were a newfangled medium, mostly the province of self-expression, and Dana Loesch says she used one for a time to flesh out her political views. Anonymously. "I was a big chicken."

In 2004 Loesch created Mamalogues, a blog about the blessings and battles that came with raising two young boys. A pioneer of the now-crowded mommy-blogger web cloud, she rose above the fray thanks to her knack for storytelling. In 2006 the St. Louis Post-Dispatch picked up Mamalogues as an online column. (The newspaper discontinued the column two years later.)

Loesch used the forum to sound off about morality and decorum but resisted her husband's suggestion to get overtly political. "I'd been pushing her to do it from the beginning," Chris says. "I thought it would've grown the audience quicker." Only when Dana debuted on radio did she get comfortable packaging the personal and political for public consumption.

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