College Republicans try to put PA in Bush’s corner

Senior Ed Buckley carefully eyed his surroundings and talked to his fellow volunteers as they slowly walked through a Philadelphia suburb.

“I’ve got a good feeling about these two,” Buckley said. “I’ve got a great feeling. Birch Street is going to be my street, gentlemen.”

What sounded like planning for a military operation was actually planning for another war of sorts: Election 2004.

Buckley was one of nine GW College Republicans to trek to Lansdale, Pa. on Oct. 2 to campaign for President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. The GW students joined about 25 students from nearby American and Georgetown universities on the first of a month’s worth of expeditions into the highly contested state.

Leaving from the Foggy Bottom Metro stop at 8:30 a.m. on the cool Saturday morning, the political warriors boarded a bus for Pennsylvania, one of 18 projected battleground states whose votes will decide Tuesday’s election. During the ride, volunteers pondered the mission ahead.

“I think we’re all just focused. Bush is the leader we need for the next four years,” said senior Chrissy Trotta, president of the College Republicans.

When the group arrived at Bush-Cheney headquarters outside of Philadelphia, they met with some disorganization. Bush-Cheney campaign officials were grossly unprepared for the number of D.C. college students to arrive. It took more than an hour for campaign officials to finalize logistics and supplies for the group.

After waiting patiently, Trotta, Buckley and sophomore Alexandra Valenti were sent to register voters and campaign for Bush in Lansdale, a suburb north of Philadelphia.

After a half-hour drive to an area of older brick houses, the campaigners stepped out of their car, prepared their clipboards and pro-Bush literature and got ready to go door to door.

“These are just good people who work hard and are trying to put their kids through school,” Buckley said.

A history major, Buckley said he has no political aspirations and is campaigning because he believes Bush is the best candidate in a tight race against Sen. John Kerry.

“We have this deep understanding that this election isn’t just about the next four years, it’s about the next decade,” he said.

But Buckley and the group’s enthusiasm encountered a rocky start. The first six houses Trotta visited were not inhabited by a single Bush supporter. One homeowner answered the door, saw the Bush sticker on Trotta’s shirt and wagged his finger saying, “Go away.”

Trotta said she is used to difficulties while campaigning on the small scale.

“My dad’s been mayor of my hometown since I was four months old,” she said, adding that her first-hand experience in politics has been a learning opportunity.

Despite some difficulties, Trotta said she focused on the College Republicans’ goal.

“We have extreme moderates, extreme conservatives … but our chapter is unified for Bush,” she said.

Though encountering a high number of Kerry voters on her rounds, Valenti persisted, knocking on the door of a house with a pro-Islam bumper sticker out front. Muslim voters have traditionally voted Democrat.

“You never take a voter for granted – yeah, there are demographics, but that doesn’t mean a black person can’t vote Republican for instance,” Valenti said. “If I skipped a house with (an) Islam Web site (sticker), I wouldn’t be doing my job for the party and for a candidate I love.”

As the group pressed forward, the situation seemed a bit more hopeful. Buckley was able to declare the political battle for Birch Street a victory after getting answers from four pro-Bush houses out of six residences.

“Birch Street is going to carry Pennsylvania for Bush-Cheney,” he said.

Despite some positive responses for the campaigning Republicans, several Pennsylvania residents said they were not registered to vote and did not want to be.

“That’s very unfortunate, that upsets me,” Trotta said, referring to the non-voters. “One way or another, I don’t care, but not voting … those will be the people complaining after the election.”

After returning to Bush-Cheney headquarters at the end of the day, they met with fellow GW Republicans, some of whom took part in slightly less interesting work.

“Making phone calls is not always the most enjoyable thing,” said sophomore Mark Harris, who worked at a phone bank.

The day finished with pizza and a viewing of CNN’s “Capital Gang” to poke fun at Kerry’s quotes from the first presidential debate. The volunteers said they were proud of their accomplishments despite some setbacks and disorganization.

“Today was rough, but this is the first time,” Trotta said. “Next time will be better.”

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