By ANNIE KINNIBURGH
While for most students Tuesday’s primary was just another election, for student political organizations the primary represented a critical turning point in a political process.
President of the Young Democrats Colin Biddle, a senior, said that the tight race between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton is indicative of a surge of enthusiasm within the Democratic Party.
“Democrats are energized like they have never been before in our lives,” Biddle said. “The last time candidates spoke to so many fundamental values of the Democratic Party was during JFK and LBJ’s presidencies.”
The Young Democrats and College Republicans, the two main political clubs on campus, spent the past two months leading up to the Virginia primary campaigning both on and off campus for their candidates. As the culmination of these efforts, the primary results were cause for celebration, analysis, and renewed resolve.
Obama took the lead with 64 percent of the Democratic vote and won all three states in the Potomac Primaries—Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. He will move on to next week’s primaries with added political momentum.
“That Obama won the Potomac Primaries has made this race even more exciting to watch,” said senior Anna Cloeter. “He’s quite clearly competitive in Clinton’s demographics and has proved that his earlier wins weren’t just aberrations.”
Chairperson of the College Republicans Rebekah Blackwell, a sophomore, said that John McCain’s victory over Mike Huckabee was not a surprise, but that it allowed the club to fully support McCain.
The club’s President, sophomore Brian Cooney, agreed.
“We are all excited that we know we have one candidate to focus our efforts behind,” Cooney said. “The College Republicans are gearing up for one of the most crucial presidential elections in our nation’s history.”
Acknowledging the importance of this fall’s election, clubs stayed active on the local and state level before the Tuesday primary. They stood outside polls on Tuesday and attended party functions in Fredericksburg and Washington, D.C.
Both clubs plan to continue campaigning in support of their candidates.
“We’re very involved in the Democratic Party’s larger efforts on behalf of our candidates,” Biddle said.
Blackwell said that a member of the College Republicans is in the process of starting a “Students for McCain” club on campus.
“We are prepared to do an extensive amount of campaigning,” she said. “It will be important for the Republican Party to turn out their voters this fall in the general election.”
Dr. John Kramer, political science department chair, stressed the importance of student voters in the primary and in November’s presidential election.
“It has always been historically dangerous to rely on young people because they don’t vote,” Kramer said. “But this election will be very close and the student vote will matter.”
James Schroll, president of E Pluribus Unum, a non-partisan political awareness group on campus, said that students are poised to play a criticalrole in deciding the presidential nominations, especially for the Democratic Party.
“Students are playing a big part in Senator Obama’s support,” Schroll said. “Younger voters are crucial to the Illinois senator’s chances of garnering the Democratic nomination.”
Schroll said that Virginia’s political history makes an outcome in November difficult to predict. The state has had two Democratic governors recently but has not voted for a Democratic president in forty years.
However, according to James Martin, executive vice-president for the Virginia Young Democrats, the statistics seem to indicate a possible change to that pattern.
The amount of youth voters for the Democratic Party increased from 30,000 voters in 2004 to 130,000 voters this Tuesday, Martin said.