South Carolina Students Get Politically Involved Before Primary

This story was written by Christina Elmore, The Daily Gamecock
As Republican and Democratic candidates compete in the race to be president, internship opportunities open up for students in the McCain and Clinton campaigns at Columbia branches.

B.J. Boling, the state communication director with the South Carolina branch of the McCain campaign, said interns are essential in promoting a candidate successfully.

"Interns are the backbone of any campaign. Campaigns work on limited budgets, and interns provide resources to help with that," Boling said.

While the job description of a political intern varies depending on the department that he or she works in, general responsibilities include making phone calls to voters, campaigning door to door in local areas and helping out anytime their respective candidate comes into town.

Viki Alvarez, a second-year political science student and intern with the McCain campaign, said one of the ways she is helping the campaign is by promoting the Republican candidate on the University of South Carolina's campus.

"Well, in addition to doing office work and clerical duties, I'm attempting to develop a Gamecocks for McCain organization on campus," Alvarez said.

By doing so Alvarez believes she can help change the indifferent opinion many college students tend to have when it comes to politics.

"Getting involved in political internships helps to combat the sense of apathy that is so common in our generation," Alvarez said.

Zac Wright, the communication director of the South Carolina branch of the Clinton campaign, said hard work and the hours interns put into the campaign can give them many benefits.

"Interns can gain a tremendous amount of work experience, and in the Clinton campaign, the satisfaction of knowing that you helped make history," Wright said.

Along with work experience, interns also have the opportunity to possibly meet the candidate that they passionately work for.

"Anytime the senator visits, interns get access to someone who could possibly be the next president," Boling said of John McCain.

Alvarez said not only has she had the opportunity to meet McCain through her work as an intern, but multiple other prominent names in politics as well.

"I've made so many connections working for the campaign. I've met every Republican candidate. I've met McCain in Rock Hill several times," Alvarez said. "He probably knows me by name by now."

For the McCain and Clinton campaigns, being an intern doesn't require a particular major, though it might help determine what department you will be asked to work in.

"Someone who is majoring in journalism or communications would most likely be placed in the communication department," Wright said.

Boling said energy and the willingness to put in long, hard hours are essential for an intern.

"Campaigns want someone to come in and be positive. After that is work ethic. Campaigns are a different environment that is incredibly fast pace," Boling said.

Since interns are usually college students, time management is an obstacle.

Merrill Walker, a first-year political science student with the Clinton campaign, said she was somewhat nervous about joining the campaign.

"At first I was worried about managing my time, but this was the first election that had a candidate that I was really interested in, so I was still interested in doing it," Walker said.

Both Alvarez and Walker said that in spite of the workload, they have been able to manage their time successfully.

Walker said that due to the willingness of the Clinton campaign to adjust her work schedule based on her academic demands, she is still able to maintain a high GPA.

"The hours are really flexible, so everything is working out.I'm still able to keep my good grades," Walker said.

Neither Alvarez nor Walker is entirely sure where they see themselves in the future when it comes to politics.

"I want to have a job doing something that I love, and politics is something that I love," Walker said.

While Alvarez shares a similar love for politics, she said she will most likely continue on with her plans to become a lawyer.

Political internship opportunities in South Carolina are not limited to the McCain and Clinton campaigns.

"I would encourage everyone to take the time and get involved," Wright said.
© 2007 The Daily Gamecock via U-WIRE
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