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TAMPA, Fla. - Like just about any parents would be, Daniel R. Centinello and his wife, Wendy, were less than pleased when their son dropped out of college.
Then it happened again.
But the parents, once crushed, are now thrilled - and that's because the Lancaster couple may find their two sons working for the next president of the United States.
Proving that politics not only makes for strange bedfellows, but also meteoric and somewhat surprising careers, Dan and Darren Centinello, 27 and 23, respectively, have already worked their way into key roles in the presidential campaign of Republican nominee Mitt Romney.
"What mom wouldn't be proud to have these two boys?" Wendy Centinello said.
Dan Centinello is Romney's deputy political director, while his younger brother serves as digital coordinator.
And the story of how they landed with Romney starts with the inspiring figure that 15-year-old Dan saw on television 12 summers ago.
"I just loved this George W. Bush guy," Dan said. "He got me really inspired."
Not surprisingly, in college Dan landed an internship with then-Rep. Jack F. Quinn, R-Hamburg, and started working on campaigns.
Then one day he shocked his parents. Just a few credits short of a degree, Dan dropped out of college to move to California to work on the mayor's race in San Diego.
"It sounded cool to me," he explained.
But not to his parents. His mother cried, and his father wasn't particularly impressed, either.
"I thought he was out of his mind," the elder Centinello said.
What the parents didn't realize at the time was that pick-up-and-go is a way of life for an entire class of young campaign aides from both parties.
And Dan Centinello parlayed that San Diego race into a series of other Republican campaign jobs, culminating in his work for then-California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Dan then signed on to Mitt Romney's 2008 bid for president, finding in the former Massachusetts governor the kind of inspiration he first found in Bush.
"He's my type of Republican - the business experience, the turnaround stuff, the Olympics," Dan said.
When Romney's 2008 campaign fizzled, Dan went to work for Chris Christie's successful race for governor of New Jersey and then Roy Blunt's winning bid for a U.S. Senate race out of Missouri.
All the while, though, he kept his eyes on Romney, and when the former Massachusetts governor moved toward a second White House bid, Dan moved with him.
Now he says he's working 20-hour days or more at Romney's Boston headquarters, poring over data and "microtargeting" voters who will vote for the GOP candidate.
Dan made it home for a break after the campaign began and started telling his brother how great Romney was, only to hear his parents say "Danny, stop that!"
It didn't work. Darren dropped out of Buffalo State College and moved in with his brother to work for Romney, too.
Now he's working 12-hour days, working on the GOP candidate's considerable social media efforts.
"I thought it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Darren said.
It's certainly proved to be that for Dan, who says he's been to the private home of Romney confidant Bob White for a summer party and gotten to know Romney better than you might think a campaign aide would.
"He is the nicest guy," Dan said of Romney. "When he's at headquarters, he just pokes his head in every office to say hi. . He remembers everybody. He's very genuine."
Dan, meanwhile, is very influential. Once concerned about their son's political obsession, the Centinellos ended up getting politically active themselves, and it all culminated in the boys' father serving as a Romney delegate at the convention last week.
But that could just be the start of great things to come, Wendy Centinello said.
"I hope that Mitt Romney wins," she said, "and that my boys go to the White House with Mitt and live happily ever after."

email: jzremski@buffnews.com