GW College Republicans showed their support for presidential candidates by attending the Christian Coalition’s annual “Road to Victory” conference at the Washington Hilton Friday and Saturday.
This year’s conference, which commemorated the 10th anniversary of the organization, provided a forum for conservative politicians vying for the White House in 2000 and other national leaders of the conservative cause.
“We have about 100 College Republicans who (attended) it free of charge,” said Brad Murphy, chairman of the CRs. “This is a one-time opportunity.”
Christian Coalition founder Pat Robertson set the pace for the event Friday morning with a description of the Coalition’s agenda.
“The U.S. is the greatest nation on the face of the earth. Yet there is a possible disaster facing us,” Robertson said, talking about the issue of poverty in the country.”
Robertson condemned President Bill Clinton on issues ranging from adultery, to abortion, to his grant of clemency to Puerto Rican nationalists.
“I want to start up a cleansing of the executive office,” Robertson said. “I’m not happy with having a vice president who said his boss was one of the greatest presidents of the 20th century.”
Students exploded into applause when presidential candidate Elizabeth Dole was introduced.
“We have a few people interning with Dole and Senator (John) McCain,” Murphy said.
Dole’s speech focused on issues that are priorities for conservatives.
“I believe it is wrong that children not have a silent moment of prayer during the school day,” said Dole, who was attending her fourth conference. “It’s wrong to look at the wall and not be able to see the Ten Commandments, which has been underlying western society for 2000 years.”
Dole said education is one of her top priorities.
“It’s student performance we want, not paperwork,” Dole said.
Following Dole’s remarks, the CRs waited outside the Hilton to meet her and take pictures with her.
“I was particularly interested in seeing Elizabeth Dole speak,” freshman Michelle Stein said. “I think it was a great experience. I was actually two people away from her.”
Presidential candidate and Texas Governor George W. Bush addressed the conference several hours after Dole.
Bush’s speech centered on “prosperity with a purpose,” said Mark SooHoo, director of publications for the CRs.
“He really explained his `compassionate conservatism,'” SooHoo said. “He was very sensible.”
Some students said they were surprised Bush’s speech did not address abortion, an issue included in speeches by his conservative peers.
“He never once said the word `abortion,'” SooHoo said.
Presidential candidates Gary Bauer, Alan Keyes, and Steve Forbes also spoke during the conference. Sen. McCain (R-Ariz.) was the only Republican candidate who did not attend the conference.
“I think it’s a great opportunity to meet the front-runners in the 2000 election and hear their focus of the campaign,” said sophomore Stephen Rosenlund, a conference volunteer. “It’s a great forum (for smaller candidates). They get just as much attention here as the big guys.”
Several people protested outside the hotel during the conference. Pro-choice supporters held signs that read “Pro-child, pro-family, pro-choice,” and pro-life advocates held signs contrasting images of prematurely born babies with images of dead fetuses.
CRs said the conference brought them closer to an organization integral to their grassroots-campaign agenda.
“Despite the negative connotations, the Coalition does a lot to bring important issues to the table,” Rosenlund said.
“We obviously can’t bring the candidates (to GW),” Murphy said.”But when we have the opportunity to go to these conventions, we love todo it.”