Northwestern students mobilize for 2012 campaign

Joseph Diebold

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With last Tuesday’s Iowa Caucuses marking the official start of the six-month campaign to choose a Republican to challenge President Barack Obama in November, Northwestern’s political groups are preparing for what will be a hotly contested election.

SESP junior Matt Davis, president of College Republicans, and Weinberg junior Josh Noah, president of College Democrats, said their groups will focus on both local and national elections.

“We do help whoever the eventual Republican nominee is and we will continue to support more local candidates,” Davis said. “There aren’t very many Republican candidates in Evanston, but for Illinois House and Senate races, we’ve recently worked on a couple of those as well.”

Noah said the Obama campaign’s Chicago location helps College Democrats coordinate their efforts.

“A lot of political campaign stuff is coordinated with the help of the national campaign, so the campaigns help each other out in that respect,” Noah said. “We’ve been in contact a lot with the Obama office trying to coordinate stuff with them, and we can easily go down there to get help or help them out in the Chicago offices if need be due to the location.”

One question in the general election will be whether President Obama can duplicate the support he received from young voters in 2008. According to exit polls, 66 percent of those aged 18-29 – a segment making up 18 percent of all voters – voted for Obama in 2008. Davis and Noah disagreed about whether that support would continue in 2012.

“Going back to 2010, we saw a huge uptick in participation in College Republicans events from people who previously thought they were going to be stigmatized for saying they were conservative, so I do think that college students are open to supporting a Republican,” Davis said. “I think that nationwide you’re going to see a lower percentage of the youth vote going to President Obama.”

Noah said Obama’s strong numbers for youth votes in 2008 will be difficult to replicate.

“But I think if he puts a good ground team in place and does what he did in 2008 in terms of building enthusiasm for politics, he’ll be able to replicate the numbers, maybe not 100 percent but very closely,” Noah said.

NU’s Political Union hosts weekly debates on issues of local and national politics. Weinberg senior Nate Enfield, president of the Union, said the group’s format allows for a more informed debate.

“Because we’re not wedded to any party or ideology, it really is a forum where we can investigate and probe different politics,” he said. “I think it just makes for a more sincere discussion and a more productive discussion of what we think the country needs and what policies to follow.”