Less than a month before America heads to the polls, the Princeton College Democrats and College Republicans have stepped up their efforts to win the hearts and minds of citizens on and off campus.
Whether canvassing, phone banking or recruiting, Princetons two largest student-run political organizations are trying to make sure nothing is left to chance come election day. College Democrats president Rob Weiss 09 and College Republicans president Andrew Malcolm 09 both said that the election fervor has certainly contributed to the spikes in their organizations memberships this year.
Both groups have enlisted hundreds of new members since September after fiercely recruiting at the Student Activities Fair.
The College Republicans have gained more than 100 new members since the beginning of this year, Malcolm said in an e-mail, noting that the organization has several hundred members on [their] e-mail list.
The College Democrats, whose membership has soared from 740 in early September to more than 1,300 as of last Thursday, is now the largest student group on campus. The groups recruitment began the moment freshmen arrived on campus. Representatives signed up interested freshmen during check-in at Baker Rink, before members of the Class of 2012 had set foot in their dorm rooms or embarked on Outdoor Action and Community Action trips.
The desire to plunge into the politics of the moment certainly resonated with some students, like Charlotte Glennie '09, who joined College Democrats this year as a senior because of her belief that the country needs a change of direction.
Students who are complete novices to the world of politics have also expressed interest in the campaign efforts.
Students have approached me saying, Hey, Ive never been a Republican or Ive never really been interested in politics. Id like to know how I can help, Malcolm said, adding that these students have been of diverse political affiliations. Its been inspiring to see that.
The surge of people has been exciting, College Republicans secretary Biz Forbes 10 said.
College Democrat Scott Falin 12 got involved because he wants to answer the call of Sen. Barack Obamas campaign for grassroots-level leadership. Micah Joselow 12 said he has also been pleased with the leadership role College Democrats encourages him to take and feels that he has taken ownership of this generations future.
But the Democrats do not have a monopoly on student excitement.
In a university where the majority of the student population supports Obamas candidacy, its been really fun to be part of a group that is just as excited about the McCain campaign, College Republican Chloe Davis 12 said in an e-mail. There is a positive energy and enthusiasm within the Campus Republicans that is so refreshing.
Canvassing and phone banking(UWIRE) -- Early this Saturday, about 50 Princeton Democrats crammed onto a chartered bus and traveled to Bucks County, Pa., to campaign for Obama and Rep. Patrick Murphy, an Iraq War veteran who is running for re-election.
Weiss described the Bucks County residents as friendly and eager to hear about Obamas platform, regardless of political affiliation. Weve been really well received by people on both sides of the aisle, he said. Nobody was cold. Weve been thrilled with our reception.
The College Democrats have been running these trips every Saturday in communities in eastern Pennsylvania, from suburban Bristol to urban Philadelphia. They intend to canvass until the day of the election. A trip to Fairfax County, Va., over Fall Break is also planned.
Tappinginto campaign fever and leveraging their expanded ranks, both groups have stepped up their phone banking efforts as well.
In conjunction with the Princeton Community Democratic Organizationhoused in a building plastered with Obama signs on Nassau Streetseveral College Democrats devote their Tuesday and Wednesday evenings to calling households in swing states such as Colorado, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
The College Republicans also plan to increase their canvassing efforts over Fall Break. They will focus on precincts that are up for grabs in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
The College Republicans have been holding trips to the McCain campaigns regional headquarters in Woodbridge, N.J., to call households to discuss McCains platform. Each trip, 15 to 20 students dedicate several hours to engaging voters in key regions of New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Davis, who went on one of the trips, said it was a positive experience.
It was a treat to be able to temporarily escape the Orange Bubble and speak to people with a variety of different reasons for casting their votes one way or another, she said.
The College Republicans also have worked extensively on organizing campaign activities with David Tukey 02, regional volunteer coordinator for New Jersey and New York for the McCain campaign and former College Republicans president.
Malcolm is excited about the reaction the College Republicans have been getting.
John McCains message appeals to a lot of people, he said. A lot of people are unsure about Barack Obama. A lot of people are questioning whether hes ready to be president and ready to lead the nation at a challenging time.
Voting(UWIRE) -- On campus, College Republicans have been making sure its members register to vote during voting drives with P-Votes and through the College Republicans website. They are working with the McCain campaign to ensure that each member registered to vote in other states receives an absentee ballot.
An integral part of the College Democrats on-campus voter registration strategy has been the appointment of 20 dorm captains whose purpose is to provide a microinfrastructure that can fire up the student Democrat base and make sure neighbors make it to the polls on Nov. 4.
As the two groups mark each passing day on the calendar, they approach election day with nervous anticipation, taking nothing for granted.
Im from South Florida and appreciate that every vote counts. This is going to be an election where every vote counts, Malcolm said.
Both organizations are motivated, as Weiss put it, by a desire not to wake up on November 5th and wish [they] had done more.
Both are confident that it wont happen.
Esther Breger contributed reporting.