As the Republican presidential race heats up, Tuesday’s primaries and caucuses have showed that Mitt Romney will not receive the GOP nomination with ease. Clearly, with Rick Santorum's sweep of the three contests on Tuesday, the GOP base still is not fully satisfied with the front-runner. It appears Romney still has his work cut out for him, especially in light of Santorum’s surprising successes.
But, on a smaller level, these early primaries have also been a test-run for their ability to grab young voters’ attention. The youth demographic still remains uninspired by these GOP campaigns, and Republicans will have a lot of work to do if they want to appeal to college students.
On the campus of the University of Minnesota, the fourth-largest student body in the country, the Republican caucus seems to hold little weight. No candidates made appearances at the university, and there were no student events regarding the caucus.
Santorum and Romney don’t offer the exciting type of candidacy that gets students engaged. Many Republican-oriented student groups here at the U have remained silent about voicing endorsements, displaying only acceptance for whomever the nominee will be.
Where is the energy? Where is the excitement? The mainstream candidates make no attempt to entice the student vote or even address issues that are important to students. Student loans, tuition costs, and ways to compete in an ever-advancing world are back-burner issues this election. The front-runner candidates are bred to have appeal across the party base and this is usually not coherent with student concerns.
In Minnesota and across the country, there does seem to finally be a Republican candidate that many students are whole-heartedly backing. In the land of 10,000 lakes, home to unconventional politicians (see Jesse Ventura, Al Franken), there does seem to be a surge in youthful support for Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas).
Paul held a rally Monday in Minneapolis that saw crowds of 1,900 passionate supporters, many of which were students. Youth for Ron Paul, an increasingly active group on campus has been vocal for their support of the Texas congressman. His policies resonate strongly with the section of society that has the most worries about their futures. Paul’s strong anti-war stances and radical economic policies create the brand for a candidate that reaps large amounts of support from the youth demographic.
Still, young people are clearly not contributing to the process, as shown in Paul's second place finish in Minnesota. The Republican Party die-hards are the ones that show up and ultimately make the choices and those that are attracted to Paul tend to be less than in love with Republicans.
Student voter support is consistently low for the right because candidates aren’t interested in the student vote. It is the ultimate catch-22. Students don’t vote because they have no stake in the candidates, and candidates don’t seek out the student vote because they know there are not many votes to be found. The candidate that finds a way to tap into the student body will find themselves better off for the general elections.
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