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Student Republicans Try To Gain Visibility At Syracuse U.

This story was written by Anna Kuchinsky, Daily Orange
Although she's a member of the Syracuse University College Republicans, Lydia D'Agostino has not noticed much activity on behalf of Republican groups on campus.

She's not alone.

Even those not closely following the presidential election have noted the disparity between Democratic and Republican campaign efforts on campus.

"I've only heard about the Democrats and what they've done," Dana Green, senior advertising design major, said. "I only know about three Republicans here."

Despite a comparatively small student base, the College Republicans is putting its time and effort into the campaigns for Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Dale Sweetland, the Republican candidate for New York's 25th U.S. Congressional district.

The campaigning, especially for Sweetland, has so far focused more on reaching Syracuse locals than getting students involved. Caitlyn Schneeweis, secretary of College Republicans, said they have passed out campaign literature and walked around towns like nearby Dewitt.

Part of the reason for the lack of focus on McCain's campaign at Syracuse is because of New York state's voting record. A Republican has not won New York state's electoral votes since former President Ronald Reagan in 1984.

The national McCain campaign has cut down on spending in New York, Schneeweis said.

"It's not really a big battleground state," Schneeweis said. "You would imagine Obama probably isn't giving a lot of money in Texas because that's typically a Republican state, and McCain has a huge lead in the polls there."

Campaigning for Dale Sweetland is likely to have a larger effect, but D'Agostino said she finds the focus on such a local election to be counterintuitive.

"I think it's bizarre," D'Agostino said. "We're not a state school, so there's a lot of people who aren't registered Central New York voters."

The reason most commonly cited for the Republican groups' smaller presence on campus has to do with the general college student demographic, she said.

"I don't really think Republicans are well represented on any college campus, just because of the general political preference of college-aged students," D'Agostino said. "They tend to be more liberal, nothing wrong with that."

That liberal tendency on college campuses is a reason why Obama has been a more popular candidate among Syracuse students, Schneeweis said.

"They have a larger base of support to work with," she said of the SU Students for Barack Obama. "They have a larger base of people to start with, so they're able to do bigger events and rallies, whereas we're more of a ground-level type of organization."

The disproportionate amount of support Obama has had over McCain at Syracuse is not unnoticed by the College Republicans, and the inequality has led the group to alter its campaign strategy.

"The difference between students for McCain and Obama is that the students for McCain realize we're outnumbered on campus so we're more focused on getting the vote out," Johnson said.

The liberal tendencies of college students, though, are not the only reason for the lack of McCain support on campus. D'Agostino, a registered Republican in Massachusetts, said she has separate reasons for not voting for McCain.

"I don't really agree with a lot of what McCain stands for, and he definitely didn't do himself any favors with (running mate, Gov. Sarah) Palin," D'Agostino said.

She said she is concerned about McCain's age and health.

"I don't want to see Sarah Palin running the country."

The College Republicans is still fighting to get more atention on campus, Schneeweis said. The group is planning to participate in debates and panel discussions with other campus groups and to table in Schine Student Center.

The student response has been positive, Schneeweis said.

"Our (McCain) T-shirts sold out in 20 minutes, which we definitely were not expecting," Schneeweis said. "We've gotten a lot of people coming to meetings who are interested, and we've had a big spike in the last week or two of people who have wanted to help out."

After the election, the College Republicans will continue to attempt to increase its presence on campus. The group hopes to bring a high-profile speaker to campus in the spring, Schneeweis said.

"It's definitely been more of a local effort," Nicholas Johnson, president of the College Republicans, said. "That's what's actually going to make a difference."

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