Students support various presidential campaigns

by Carter Brace | 1/21/16 9:38pm

With the primaries less than three weeks away, Dartmouth students are busy campaigning for several presidential candidates from both the Republican and Democratic parties.

The three Democratic candidates, Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton and Martin O’Malley, have active student groups.

The largest student groups campaigning for Republican candidates are those for John Kasich and Marco Rubio, but there are also students campaigning for Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush.

The Sanders campaign has the largest amount of student support, according to student campaigner’s reports.

Felicia Teter ’13, a Sanders volunteer, said that around 150 supporters showed up to watch a video Sanders campaign launch on July 29 of last year. The student group has 40 to 60 active volunteers, she said.

The Sanders group has focused on increasing voter turnout among students, Ben Packer ’17 said.

“We’ve been going around door-to-door, making sure people know how to vote and know how to register to vote,” Packer said.

The Sanders group at Dartmouth does “dorm storms,” in which volunteers knock door-to-door around campus, telling people how to vote and persuading them to vote for Sanders if appropriate, Packer said. Sanders volunteers also helped with event management when Sanders spoke at Spaulding last Thursday.

In addition, the Sanders campaign has an organizer, Kyle Butts, who focuses on Dartmouth and other universities in New Hampshire.

“Because we’re working so closely with the campaign right now, we’re not currently acting as an independent, self-managing student organization,” Packer said.

The Hillary Clinton campaign has received the second highest level of support from students, with over 100 people attending events put on by the Dartmouth for Hillary group and volunteering for campaign activities such as phone-bank shifts, canvassing shifts and data entry, Clinton volunteer Austin Boral ’16 said.

Clinton visited Dartmouth twice in 2015, once in the summer and once in the fall. The campaign brought public figures to Lebanon in support of Clinton, such as former U.S. Women’s Soccer player Abby Wambach and Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards.

Out of the Republican candidates, John Kasich’s campaign has the most student supporters.

“I’m pretty confident when I say that we probably have the largest network of supporters [among Republican candidates],” Ben Vihstadt ’16, a Kasich supporter, said.

The campaign has 10 to 15 volunteers who participate in phone-banks, and “super-day canvassing,” during which volunteers go door-to-door on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. In one phone-bank last week, eight or nine Kasich volunteers made over 5,000 calls, Vihstadt said.

Kasich has visited the college twice in the past academic year, more than any other Republican candidate, with one visit in the fall and another last Monday.

The Kasich campaign draws more moderate supporters than other Republican candidates.

“I don’t really consider myself a Republican or Democrat.” Cameron Isen ’18, a volunteer for the pro-Kasich Super PAC, New Day for America, said.

Isen, under the direction of field directors, makes cold calls, manages the Kasich student Facebook page and helps set up events at which Kasich appears.

The Marco Rubio campaign also has some of the highest levels of student support among Republican candidates with 15 to 20 Rubio supporters, including five “die-hard Rubio fans who go out and door knock,” Abraham Herrera ’18, campus chair of Students for Rubio, said. The Rubio group has hosted information sessions on the campaign around the state, organized phone banks and participated in Super Saturdays, where volunteers from across the state come to the local area to door knock.

Herrera is taking an off-term to work as a field coordinator for volunteer management at the Rubio state headquarters in Manchester.

Chris Quintero ’18 started a student group for Martin O’Malley in the fall. The group has about 10 volunteers, who have participated in phone-banking and canvassing in the Hanover and Lebanon area, he said. O’Malley also visited Dartmouth in the summer and fall.

Quintero said O’Malley’s chance of success is low, but his run for the presidency may position him for a future campaign or a cabinet role.

“We’ve come to realize that he’s probably not going to win,” he said.

Students for Cruz have been collecting signatures to put Cruz on the ballot in Vermont, as well as attending events. The Cruz group is small in comparison to other Republican candidate groups on campus, and their work in Vermont only involved Students for Cruz chair and vice president of the College Republicans, Brian Chen ’17, and Students for Cruz vice chair Josh Kauderer ’19.

Chen himself shifted his support to Cruz after previously supporting Rand Paul.

“What really appeals to me about Cruz is that he’s the most consistent conservative and the most courageous conservative,” Chen said.

There is no Rand Paul group currently on campus, Chen said.

Donald Trump, who is leading in Republican polls in New Hampshire at the moment, also does not currently have a student campaign group at the College.

“A lot of us have Trump as our second-choice, but no one is pushing for him aggressively at the moment,” Chen said.

In the fall, the Jeb Bush student group helped to organize a town hall with Bush in Lebanon, but has been relatively inactive since. The student group intends to start phone-banks and door-to-door canvassing this weekend, volunteer Chris Davis ’18 said.

Republican student campaigners noted that Republican candidates do not have a strong focus on campaigning in the Upper Valley.

“Grafton County is more of a Democratic stronghold,” Herrera said.

He also mentioned difficulties with transportation in the area, where houses are often further apart than in other parts of New Hampshire.

“What I’ve heard from Houston [Cruz campaign headquarters] is that coming up to a very liberal region wouldn’t be worth his time,” Chen said, in explaining how a Cruz visit to Dartmouth is unlikely.

FiveThirtyEight predicts Trump has a 62 percent chance of winning the Republican primary in New Hampshire and Sanders has a 58 percent chance of winning the Democratic primary. The primaries are scheduled for Feb.9.