Super Tuesday has come and gone, leaving the nation wondering who will be the Democratic nominee for President. The Associated Press reported that Senator Clinton has 979 delegates, while Obama leads with 1,112, and is buoyed by wins in Maine, Louisiana, and a host of other states.
Next up are primaries in Wisconsin and Hawaii—both reportedly Obama-friendly states. Pennsylvania’s primaries are held in early April, and for the first time in decades, the state might play an important role in helping to settle the battle between the Democratic forerunners.
As voters around the country remain split over Obama and Clinton, Swarthmore’s College Democrats, too, find themselves in a similar predicament. While those who previously supported candidates like John Edwards and Dennis Kucinich have had to find a new candidate to support, others remain adamant in their support for the two hopefuls.
On the Trail
Anne Kolker ’08 has deeply involved herself in this electoral cycle. As Pennsylvania State Director of Students for Barack Obama, she has spent much of her time organizing college chapters for the benefit of her candidate. “Right now, there is a big push to get students in PA to travel to or make phone calls to the states with primaries coming up this next week. I’ve been trying to rope Swarthmore in on those state-wide types of activities,” Kolker said.
Kolker has also worked to collect signatures in Pennsylvania. In every state, candidates must petition for a spot on the ballot; no one is every automatically placed on the ballot. Hence, Obama must gather the required number to have a shot at Pennsylvania’s delegates.
But in addition to getting signatures for Obama, Kolker is collecting them for herself. She is running as an alternate delegate for Obama in the 7th Congressional district. “I need to gather 250 signatures of registered Democrats in the 7th (which is where Swarthmore is) to get myself on the ballot. So, hopefully, I will be on the ballot when PA votes on April 22nd, and get elected to be a delegate to the nominating convention in Denver this August.”
Molly Weston ’10, president of the College Democrats, was once a John Edwards supporter, but now leans toward Obama. However, instead of working directly on a campaign, she has focused more on increasing voter registration, especially on campus. According to Weston, the official policy of the College Democrats, during primaries, is to support the process but not individual candidates.
She remarked, “Voter registration is an important part of the process, in the primaries or the general election. The College Democrats will work hard over the next year to get out the vote.”
According to Professor of Political Science Richard Valelly, student involvement—like Kolker’s and Weston’s—in the primaries will weigh heavily in deciding the next Democratic nominee, especially if that effort is directed toward states with the closest upcoming primaries. “Student participation in the Pennsylvania primary will matter enormously if Senator Clinton has not suspended her campaign by the time of the Pennsylvania primary.”
“But volunteering in Ohio and Texas for either Obama or Clinton would be unbelievably interesting—maybe not the thrill of a lifetime, but certainly one of the lifetime thrills that…[is] budgeted for each of us,” Valelly said.
Like Democrats across the nation, Swarthmore students are divided.
Among the College Democrats, Obama appears to have a slight edge. Weston, College Democrats vice-president John Erwin-Frank ’11, and treasurer Nick Schultz ‘11 all support him strongly.
Erwin-Frank even ventured to New Hampshire to campaign for his chosen candidate. “Obama will unite progressives in America and form a lasting democratic coalition,” he explained. On whether Obama’s race will deter voters, Erwin-Frank remarked, “the racist white vote won’t go to the Democrats anyway”
Schultz was impressed by Obama’s fresh face. “He will bring a new look to Washington. I believe Obama has the best chance to win. Hillary is too divisive,” Schultz said. He’s particularly been won over by Obama’s strong opposition to the Iraq War. “I don’t like Hillary’s stance on Iraq,” he said.
But Hillary Clinton has many advocates. Douglas Gilchrist-Scott ‘09, a former treasurer for the Democrats, expressed his belief that the older Clinton possesses experience that her younger opponent lacks, important in a national election. “I think that her experience garners political clout,” he explained.
Democrats member Isabel Rivera ’10 agrees with Gilchrist-Scott, believing that Clinton’s experience could make a difference in a tight race for the presidency: “Hillary Clinton. Two words—the experience, the know-how. And she has Bill. She’s the answer.”
But these divisions shouldn’t worry democratic voters. Valelly believes voters should feel empowered, as campaigning for a candidate in the Democratic primaries could make an enormous difference. “It’s a big year to make a difference, and it doesn’t come along very often. This is literally the first time in 40 years that the Democratic party nomination is likely to be really and truly up for grabs when the Denver convention opens,” he said.
If you would like to get involved on the campaign trail, you can email College Democrats president Molly Weston at mweston1 or Anne Kolker at akolker1.