USF’s College Republicans aren’t as vocal as their Democratic counterparts. They don’t bring in as many speakers, nor do they advertise voter rallies. That doesn’t mean they are without a presence, however.
The group, led by chairman Matt Strenth, spends most of its time volunteering for local Republican outfits and recruiting new members. During this campaign, members of the College Republicans have volunteered to work phonebanks at the local Republican office in Carrollwood, hand out absentee voting info sheets and promotional material and check admission tickets at recent visits to Florida by both President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. Some College Republicans have also made time to protest during rallies featuring Democratic nominee Sen. John Kerry, Strenth said.
“I’m not sure how effective (events) are,” Strenth told The Oracle last week. “We’re more interested in getting votes and volunteers than having a sideshow. The Kerry visit was good for them, but the others I don’t think do much.”
Unlike the College Democrats, who aren’t even registered with the Democratic Party, the College Republicans work very closely with the Republicans to maximize their impact.
“We are independent of them and we can do what we want, more or less,” Strenth said. “We take cues from them because they have strategies they see from Washington; you don’t want to be counterproductive.”
Strenth said the group will have 50 to 75 members walking door to door Tuesday and encouraging Republican voters to hit the polls. He added that many other members will find a variety of other ways to contribute.
“On Election Day we’ll be making phone calls, driving people to the polls and whatever (the Republican campaign) tell us to do,” Strenth said. “I don’t even know what I’ll be doing.”
While most students are busy spending the month of October working, watching baseball, churning out term papers and finding enough time to study for those ever important midterms, for Nori Cruz of the College Democrats, this is just what she does in her off time; she has to help John Kerry become the next president of the United States of America.
Enthused by the latest polls, which show the presidential race running a dead heat, Cruz and the College Democrats have had to work overtime this semester in order to change what they see as the ill-fated legacy of George W. Bush. “In all of my life, I have never seen anything as bad as what is happening under this administration,” Cruz said.
“We are Democrats,” she continued. “We are just average Americans who are trying to make a living and have a better life. There have been a lot of problems within the past four years: the situation in Iraq, the economy, education, everything. We just think the policy on the Democrats’ side is more conducive to a better life in this country.”
Cruz and the College Democrats have spent recent months doing all they can to increase voter turnout. From Get Out the Vote rallies featuring booths, bands and brochures and bringing in big-name celebrities like Michael Moore to come speak to students, all of their deeds have had one aim: getting people to vote. “Regardless of the party, we really just want students to vote,” Cruz said.
During the past semester, College Democrats coupled with many other progressive groups on campus have been working hard to register students to vote. “We have registered over a thousand voters,” Cruz said. “We have a real momentum going with students.”
Feeding off of this momentum, the College Democrats have now turned their sights to the final leg of the election, actually getting these people to the polls.
There are currently nine early voting polling places throughout the city and from now through Election Day, Cruz and the College Democrats will be running shuttles from the Marshall Center to the Jimmy Keele Library on Bearss Ave., one of the nine early voting locations.
Cruz and the College Democrats, alongside thousands of other Americans, will spend Tuesday doing what they think is one of the most noble duties possible in a democracy. They will be shuttling people to and from the polls and working as poll watchers and assistants.
“We are encouraging students to early vote, because we are predicting this to be one of the highest turnouts ever,” she said. “If there are individual students who need to be picked up, we will pick them up and take them.”
For more information on how to get to the polls or any other election related issue, students can call the Democratic Party Office Headquarters at (813)-879-1997.