As the nation prepares to kick off its earliest presidential primary elections ever, political groups at Brown University are heading to New Hampshire to get involved. By state law, the Granite State holds the nation's first primary, making it an important indicator of how candidates will fare later, and its proximity to Rhode Island makes it a destination for campus political activists.
This year's primary will be held on Jan. 8 -- the earliest in New Hampshire history -- when most students will be home for winter break. Other states have also pushed for earlier primaries this year. And as early as Feb. 5, known as Super Tuesday for its large number of primaries, now being called Super Duper Tuesday by some, the parties may have their nominees -- nearly half the nation's primaries will now take place that day. The time changes are impacting campus political groups' plans, causing them to reschedule canvassing trips and take time out of winter break to get involved.
The national compressing of the political calendar results from states trying to gain greater influence in the nomination process. Candidates must decide which states to devote the most attention to in this ever-shortening window, which may cause some to rely heavily on media campaigns and focus on states with the most delegates.
According to a recent Herald poll, 5.6 percent of undergraduates are currently involved with a presidential campaign. Brown University Students for Barack Obama is sending a group of around 10 students to New Hampshire this weekend to either canvass or participate in a conference for college students, said Chapter Coordinator Max Chaiken '09.
Members of the group have already canvassed a number of times this year. Their work is organized through the Obama campaign's office in Portsmouth, N.H.
"In general, the campaign has been really working to get us involved in the early states," Chaiken said.
The earlier primary date helps mobilize people and may help Obama's bid by carrying the growing momentum in Iowa through primary season, Chaiken said. Between five and 10 students will also be working in winter internships in New Hampshire, and many will remain through the first weeks of break until the primary. Students apply for the internships and must commit to at least one week of about 15-hour days canvassing, going door-to-door, helping out at local events, doing office work and filling any needs that arise, Chaiken said.
Brown Students for Hillary will also be driving to New Hampshire this weekend to canvass and hear speakers as their last big event before exams start, said Ava Lubell '09, one of the group's leaders.
"We are enthusiastic but not zealous," she said, while describing the summer camp-like atmosphere of the trip. "We have fun events that are ultimately an opportunity to talk about the campaign."
Some Clinton supporters will also have winter internships that will be cut short because of the early primary date.
"Ultimately, I don't think it will have much impact because (Clinton) has been doing consistently well. ... If anything it will help her," Lubell said. "It can be stressful because suddenly it is Christmas and everyone is campaigning, so I don't know if it will affect turnout."
The College Republicans are also going to the Granite State the next two weekends. At least five people will be on each trip, and once they arrive in Manchester, N.H., they will split up to lend support to their candidates of choice, said Marc Frank '09, the groups' president.
Finals and break will then put the group's efforts on hold.
"It is a little ridiculous what happened this year," Frank said. "The big rush to pick nominees makes the election about who can run the best media campaign and makes for a less nformed electorate."
If the race is still close after Feb. 5, the College Republicans will campaign for Rhode Island's Mar. 4 primary.
© 2007 Brown Daily Herald via U-WIRE