Valerie Davis made herself matter in this election when she cast her ballot on Tuesday.
"In this primary, Texas finally matters," said the Texas A&M junior history major who voted for Sen. Barack Obama, "so I feel like my voice counts."
Davis was among the many young people who voted in the Texas primary Tuesday, taking part in an election season that has involved considerable input from young people and a host of candidates who've actually beckoned for it.
"The youth are inspired," said Ryan Cost, the senior producer for ThePalestra.com, a website that covers young people and politics. He's traveled across the country from primary to primary, starting with the Iowa caucuses in January, and he's noticed one thing everywhere he goes: college students are involved.
In South Carolina, he said, the youth vote was triple what it usually is. In Tennessee, it tripled. "There's this huge lot of the electorate that hasn't traditionally shown up in elections," Cost said, but added that it appears the beast that is the youth vote has risen from its slumber, including in Texas.
The same kind of boost showed here too, said Cost, who has been at Texas A&M because of ThePalestra.com's partnership with Fox News. He said that involvement and their interest hinges on unhappiness with the president now and the issues they care about: health care, the war, the environment, the cost of a college education.
It's a point Davis echoed. "There are a lot of problems that need to be fixed," she said, adding that health care and education costs matter the most to her.
It appears the candidates and their campaigns have recognized that, adding universities to their campaign stops along with the senior citizen centers and churches. And they've tailored their promises to gel with the new crowd.
Two former governors of Arkansas, who come from a town called Hope, both talked about making college more affordable when they made stops at A&M in the past week. Former President Bill Clinton said Sunday that his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham, a Democratic candidate, would support government loans with low interest rates (in the neighborhood of two percent) and forgive the loans of college graduates who work in low-paying public service jobs.
Mike Huckabee said he recognized higher education as important, but also as a problem at a rally on Friday. (His primary objective in terms of higher education, according to his website, is making college tuition tax deductible.)
Obama supports giving first-year students a $4,000 grant and making community college free. As for Sen. John McCain, I called his press office to see what his plans are. A spokeswoman said she would look into it and call back. I haven't heard back from her, and there wasn't anything on the campaign website.
So far, the campaign has been like a several month long game of tennis. The young people became interested, hitting the ball to the candidates' side of the court. They saw it coming, and hit back. The game continued from there. Young people volunteered, picked up signs, went to rallies and made phone calls for their candidate.
"It's almost a pain to walk through the MSC breezeway with all the people yelling, 'Hey, vote for Obama,' 'Vote for Hillary,'" said Carter Paret, a sophomore anthropology major at Texas A&M.
The preliminary signs, including the high turnout in early voting, showed that they put down the signs and stepped into the voting booth. They've followed through, and it's now the candidates' turn.
The question is: Will they reciprocate, or is it game over?
Tommy Lanier, a senior political science major at A&M, says logic prevents him thinking they will. "I really don't see that happening," said Lanier, who reluctantly voted forMcCain after his first choice, Mitt Romney, dropped out. "From history's standpoint, it's been that way in the past. They go back to the Washington stalemate."
But Davis remains an optimist; she said Obama would follow through on his promises.
"I think the others will do the same," Davis said of the other presidential hopefuls sticking to their word.
We'll soon find out.
© 2008 The Battalion via U-WIRE