Students advocate Democrats with tables and footwork

by Laura Glickman | 11/5/03 6:00am

At 7 a.m. on Homecoming weekend, when many students were sleeping off a hangover, Brian Martin '06 was in Manchester, N.H., helping open presidential hopeful Gen. Wesley Clark's new office.

"You know you're a Dartmouth student when people who've been working for hours say, 'You look tired,'" said Martin, who chairs College for Clark.

Martin is just one of many students here involved in campus organizations campaigning for candidates in the democratic primary.

"There are a lot of students putting time and effort into one of the political campaigns," said Phil Peisch '04, co-chair of Students for Edwards of Dartmouth College. "This dispels the myth that we're a politically apathetic campus."

The Race for Votes

The six leading democratic candidates all have student campaigns at Dartmouth. Students in these groups work to convince Democratic primary voters their candidate should be the party's nominee.

Next Friday, Dartmouth's Generation Dean plans to hold its first student room party. Modeled after the national Howard Dean campaign's "house parties," 10 to 12 invited undecided primary voters will watch a message video about Dean, eat and socialize. From there, Dartmouth's Generation Dean hopes two people from this party will commit to hosting parties of their own.

With 40 to 50 active members, Generation Dean appears to be the largest of the Democratic campaigns on campus. Still, there are niches for other candidates.

One reason why many college students like Dean is that he is "honest and straightforward," according to Greg Klein '04 of Generation Dean.

"[Sen. John] Kerry attracts people who are interested in the environment, people from the Northeast, and Democrats who aren't from the activist fringes on campus," said Janos Marton '04, student body president and one of two Dartmouth coordinators of Students for Kerry, which has about 30 active members.

College for Clark, on the other hand, attracts both liberal and conservative students, Martin said.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, however, appeals to students who are not as far left as Dean and want a candidate who is both fiscally conservative and socially progressive, according to Matt Slaine '06 and Josh Stern '04 of Students for Joe at Dartmouth.

Peisch described the kinds of supporters the Sen. John Edwards campaign attracts in more general terms. "We've been very happy with the reception and feedback we've gotten," he said. "He could attract anyone who has a positive vision of America ... and is willing to work to improve things."

Though not as large as Generation Dean, the Lieberman, Clark and Kerry groups still campaign on campus. But Students for Gephardt has largely abandoned on-campus campaigning, focusing instead on phone banks, canvassing and visibility.

"Students aren't [Gephardt's] main base," said Vikash Reddy '05 of Students for Gephardt. "He ought to appeal to them, but he isn't as exciting as Dean."

Though Dean has the biggest active following among students here, many campaigns are pleased by students' response.

The six established Democratic campaigns on-campus appeal to many different groups of students, but there are no student groups for Rev. Al Sharpton or former U.S. Ambassador Carol Moseley Braun. The campus group for Dennis Kucinich is also now inactive, according to its former head, Alexandro Kirigin '06, so its members can "work on individual issues where we could actually have successes."

Working Toward Victory

As part of the Democratic political campaigns, students canvass: they go door-to-door in the community persuading people to vote for their primary candidate.

In addition to canvassing, all student campaigns except for College for Clark "phone bank," or call local people to talk about their candidate. All campaigns also do what they call "visibility," in which a campaign representative stands in a public area with a sign.

Another major part of most student campaigns, and perhaps the one that most influences students here, is tabling: setting up tables around campus to pass out literature and talk to people about particular candidates.

According to students, the biggest and most exciting activities for the Democratic campaigns are when candidates' representatives or the candidates themselves come to speak at Dartmouth.

Campaigns usually put in a standing request for such visits; College for Clark, however, has not requested any Clark representatives because it is "waiting for the big shabang," a visit from Clark himself.

Since the start of the fall term, Edwards, his wife Elizabeth, Lieber-man's daughter Rebecca, Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich '68, who campaigns for Kerry and several others have visited campus.

According to their Dartmouth campaign representatives, Clark and Lieberman will also visit campus before the New Hampshire primary.