Palin Energizes U. Iowa Young Republicans

This story was written by Shawn Gude, The Daily Iowan


When Republican presidential nominee John McCain selected Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate late last month, conservatives around the country rejoiced.

Staunchly conservative on social issues and carrying a reputation of reform, the GOP saw Palin as the perfect outsider complement to McCain and someone who would help draw the youth to the ticket, which has been shown in Iowa, anecdotes reveal and experts say.

"Palin's youth does help to energize the students," said Tim Hagle, a University of Iowa associate professor of political science.

This has been seen at the UI College Republican meetings. Usually, there's only very high attendance at the first meeting. But with the addition of Palin, attendance has yet to subsided.

"Standing room only," Vice Chairman Mike Currie said.

Adds group Chairman Eric Rossow: "The youth are excited about her because our generation now has a Republican to rally around."

However, Democratic nominee Barack Obama's camp said it's confident that the Illinois senator will win the youth voting bloc.

"We saw firsthand in January during the caucuses - and continue to see leading up to the Sep. 25 start date for early voting in Iowa - tremendous enthusiasm from young people across the state for the Obama-Biden ticket," said Jenni Lee, a spokeswoman for the Obama-Biden campaign.

UI Students for McCain reports that 20 volunteers showed up at 5:30 a.m. for a Sep. 18 McCain-Palin rally - four hours early. In addition, the organization's numbers have increased "significantly," said Katherine Morrison, the chairwoman.

In Ames, the response has also been positive, Republicans said.

Samantha Clark, the chairwoman of the Iowa State University College Republicans, said members are anxiously awaiting the new McCalin-Palin bumper stickers and shirts because Palin's name plastered on them.

But the reasons for her appeal to the youth depends to whom you speak.

The allure of the pick is that it looks forward, Hagle said. While Obama went with longtime senator, Joe Biden, D-Delaware, the tapping of Palin "really adds to that future element of the ticket," he said.

Hagle echoed Paris Hilton's reference to 72-year-old McCain as a "wrinkly, white-haired guy," while Palin, 44, is a sharp contrast. "There's something to that," he said. "I think that's part of Obama's appeal - he's someone that's closer to [young peoples'] age range."

That sentiment is present as well at Iowa State University, said Paul Vidmar, the vice chairman of the College Republicans, noting the "younger face" Palin brings to the ticket.

McCain's Iowa campaign declined to release statistics on the number of post-Palin volunteers, but spokeswoman Wendy Riemann said it has increased.

"Sen. McCain's choice of Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate has been a great lift to the volunteer base here in Iowa," she said in an e-mail. "We have seen many women and men become even more energized from the announcement. Gov. Palin's background and her strong executive experience hold great appeal to many individuals, including college students."

Rossow said young conservatives have been energized by the Palin selection simply by the charisma and the humility she exudes.

"We have had great Republican leaders during our lifetimes, but none who have really stirred great excitement," he said. "She is, and will be, a rising star in the Republican Party because she connects so well with middle America and seems like the neighbor next door."

Lynn McRoberts, chairwoman of the statewide Iowa Students for McCain, sees the allure of Plin as just one of many factors that have resulted in greater excitement in her organization.

She's "someone we can really relate to."
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