Securing the 2012 GOP presidential nominees

An inside look at how candidates are protected on the campaign trail


However, Sordi said that security personnel do need to be prepared to deal with things such as unscheduled or "popup" demonstrations.

"With all of the social networking that goes on now, basically with the click of a button on your phone you could send a mass alert or a mass text message to a humongous entity and then all of sudden within minutes you have a flash mob show up at a location," he said. "The mob may be protesting something like the Occupy Wall Street movement or it might be a more volatile mob. Who knows?"

The aforementioned off the record moves by candidates or their staffs also pose a big challenge, according to Sordi.

"All of sudden, something comes in at the last minute and the (candidate) wants to jump out and when you're in a motorcade and you're moving, it's a lot harder to hit a moving target," he said. "Let's face it, a big part of what they do is meet and greet and handshakes and that becomes one of the most stressful times where a protection agent is constantly on edge. No matter how much you prepare, you're always exposed."

The amount of federal resources dedicated to protecting candidates has come up for public debate recently as costs have reportedly risen substantially over the years. According to a story published by the Washington Post, the Secret Service recently requested more than $113 million to protect this year's Republican nominee, which is reportedly a $4 million increase from 2008 and nearly two-thirds more than was spent on security for the 2004 election.

In fact, one Texas lawmaker is calling for Gov. Rick Perry to reimburse state taxpayers for the nearly $800,000 they shelled out for his security expenses while he was still on the campaign trail.

Despite the high security price tag, Maez said that the resources agents are able to devote to candidate protection pales in comparison to the president's security.

"You can't compare candidate protection to presidential or vice presidential protection. They are two inherently different animals," he said. "The same basic concepts apply, but the level of resources that are utilized by the Secret Service and local law enforcement... it's totally different. When you're protecting the president or vice president you're protecting the leaders of the free world basically and the resources are limitless. When you have maybe six or seven declared candidates for the nomination for a particular party, the resources aren't limitless.

"You predicate your security on intelligence. If intelligence information is provided that is credible that there is a plot, let's say an organized plot or even (a plot by) an individual, but it's good, solid information, then 99 percent of the time in cooperation with the candidate and his staff you can avoid the situation. But, you have to be sure you only use that card when you absolutely, positively have to. As the agency that is protecting these candidates, you can't be crying wolf with respect to what's inherently a dangerous situation. The candidates being out there in the public eye, there are some risks to it."

And even though federal law doesn't formally extend Secret Service protection to all members of a candidate's immediate family as it does in the case of the president, Maez said that their safety must still be taken into consideration.

"When I was there we took into account the immediate family members even though we may not have specifically assigned details to them," Maez added. "We would definitely include them in our security overview with respect to a candidate and if there were certain instances where let's say a spouse was very controversial and he or she is the target of threats, then obviously because that spouse is going to be with the candidate we want to make sure the protective umbrella covers both of them."

While advancements in technology have helped with keeping candidates safe, Maez said that it's still up to people using this equipment to know when something doesn't look or feel quite right.

"Technology is great, but it's only as good as the people using it," Maez said.