With the presidential election just 10 weeks away, Democratic and Republican student groups are turning out in droves to support their candidates.
Last Thursday night, more than 350 students attended the GW College Republicans kick-off event at T.G.I. Fridays’.
“We’ve always been quoted as being a minority here, but we are really active and I think that our message gets out on campus and that what matters to us,” College Republicans chair Chrissy Trotta said.
The chairman of the national College Republicans attended the kick-off event and commended the group for the strength of their chapter. He stressed the importance of absentee ballots and winning the vote in battleground states in order to re-elect the president, Trotta said. Earlier this month, the College Republicans sent 20 students to the Republican Convention in New York.
“We know we are going to elect George Bush and hopefully the members that get involved now will stay involved,” Trotta said.
Also kicking off the new year, the College Democrats welcomed back their members with a barbeque in Kogan Plaza Thursday afternoon. The group is the second largest on campus with more than 700 members. At the barbeque, the group signed up an additional 250 members and sold out of College Democrats T-shirts, President Laila Hasan said.
“There are hundreds of people on this campus who are ready to get involved and elect John Kerry,” Hasan said.
Junior James Williams, assistant events director for the College Democrats, worked as a volunteer coordinator for the Kerry campaign over the summer.
“I’m very excited and very confident about Kerry. The attitude around the campaign is very optimistic,” Williams said.
Over the summer, members from both the College Republicans and Democrats were interviewed by NBC4 for an election series on youth involvement in presidential campaigns.
Another student organization, Colonials for Kerry, formed last fall to support John Kerry and has about 300 members. Their kick-off week begins Monday. They have plans to host voter registration drives and phone banks. During the phone banks, groups members plan to call people using their cell phones to encourage those in swing states to vote for Kerry, said Colonials for Kerry President Christina Heckart.
In a recent CNN/USA Today/Gallup post-Republican Convention poll, President Bush leads Kerry 52 to 45 percent among those likely to vote.
“Republicans were boosted a lot with the convention and hopefully we can ride that out because we are in a good position as far as the National party goes,” College Republican Vice Chair Jeff Holth said.
Kerry supporters said they are not disheartened by the poll results.
“The bounce that Bush got from the convention has nearly faded and we kind of like where we are, with the media a little down. Kerry does better when he is a little behind,” Williams said.
“I really don’t listen to polls – it’s too soon, too early. But the debates will be interesting. A majority of America doesn’t start paying attention until they can see debates and decide for themselves,” Heckart said.
Colonials for Kerry helped bring former presidential candidate Howard Dean to endorse Kerry in Kogan Plaza last spring. Heckart said that the Kerry campaign had the choice to host the event at Howard University, but chose GW for the manpower put in by the Colonials for Kerry.
GW was also named the hottest university in the nation for “political junkies” by the 2005 Kaplan/Newsweek “How to Get into College” guide.
True to the Kaplan title, GW students were quick to express their opinions about the upcoming election.
“Something that really resonates with college students is the war. A lot of our friends and peers are going abroad to Iraq and we want to make sure it stops,” Hasan said.
“George Bush isn’t afraid to say something is wrong when its wrong, which is why he resonates with me,” sophomore John McCormack said. “I think that Kerry simply doesn’t know what the average American feels in their heart about what is good for the US.”