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U. Mississippi Political Groups Discuss Future Campaigns

This story was written by Michael Patronik, Daily Mississippian

Sen. Barack Obama is now the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee after Tuesday's primary gains in Montana and South Dakota, plus the pledged support of additional party superdelegates.

The long contest is finally drawing to a close with Sen. Hillary Clinton's expected concession speech on Saturday, and both local Democrats and Republicans are happy the nominee has finally been decided.

Franco Healy, student director of the Mississippi Barack Obama campaign, said he was not surprised Obama was the winner.

"He certainly earned it," Healy said.

While Obama's nomination was deserved in Healy's view, he is also satisfied with the process by which it was determined.

"I'm glad there was not a lot of mud-slinging within the party," he said. "There was less bickering among the Democratic Party than I expected."

On the subject of what lies ahead for Obama's Mississippi campaign, Healy said Obama retains an advantage among college students.

"Obama appeals to change-oriented demographics," Healy said. "He definitely has a leg up on John McCain among college students."

Tyler Craft, chairman of the College Republicans at the University of Mississippi, is also glad the Democratic nomination has been determined.

"I think the G.O.P. has speculated for a few weeks that Obama would get the nomination," he said. "McCain can now begin to direct his campaign against Obama."

Obama is well known for his campaign focus on "change," as well as for his youthful appeal - both boons to his strong support among college students.

In a recent poll, the Panetta Institute for Public Policy found Obama was favored by 66 percent of college students, whereas McCain had 20 percent of students' support.

These numbers do not worry Craft concerning who will secure the state's four electoral votes.

"I don't think Obama's nomination has changed anything for College Republicans here at Ole Miss," he said. "While he does carry a lot of 18- to 25-year-olds, that's probably not going to be true here at Ole Miss."

Healy, however, thinks Mississippi's red state status is not a foregone conclusion and that Obama stands to make gains here.

"Republicans always ignore Mississippi because they assume we will vote Republican," he said. "Obama has shown that Mississippi is important, and the people like it."

Regardless of preferred candidates, the College Democrats and College Republicans will both approach September's on-campus presidential debate and November election in a spirit of cooperation.

The two groups are undertaking a joint campaign of voter education.

One planned event is to distribute a pamphlet delineating each candidate's stance on particular topics from a shared table in the Union.

"We want voters to know what they're voting for," Craft said.

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