Florida is the epicenter of the 2008 presidential election. There is little doubt that Florida could prove vital in securing either candidate’s seat in the White House. Florida is important because the state of about 18 million has 27 of the 270 electoral votes. If Florida is of such paramount importance to the campaign, why are Republicans largely ignoring Florida universities, specifically USF?
Sen. John McCain spoke at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute in late April. He appealed to a small group of supporters, all of whom paid admission, and gave a speech on improving health care. He was on campus and did not bother to make the trek to the Sun Dome to speak to a more diverse audience — stereotypically liberal college students.
Conversely, Sen. Joe Biden spoke at organized rallies in Lakeland and at the Sun Dome. Biden spoke at USF on Oct. 8 to a raucous crowd of supporters in favor of change.
Biden and the Democratic Party have taken center stage in the weeks before the election. Not only have the Democrats taken time to woo USF students and faculty, Biden knew how to address his audience by correctly appealing to the sense of pathos and easing fears about the economy. Biden rallied the crowd over the bill proposed at the time to eliminate excessive subsidies for lenders. He also narrowed his focus specifically to students by speaking about how his party works to lower rates on student loans.
And where are the Republicans?
Nowhere to be found.
Sure, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin spoke to hundreds of supporters Oct. 6 at Clearwater’s Coachman Park, but the last time I made that drive, it took me 45 minutes.
I would like to know why USF is being ignored by Republicans, especially since Palin’s proposals would have certainly been met with opposition from students. In the Republican ideal of change, Palin mentioned a proposal to cut $14 billion from student aid programs.
Although it has been well documented that Sen. Barack Obama is not entirely black, pundits have emphasized just how important it is that he attracts black voters. Obama has roots in Kenya and Kansas. The USF student body is 12 percent black. Looking to capitalize on a traditionally liberal sector — the young and black voters of USF — Obama entrusted Biden with the task of procuring much of that 12 percent said Adam Emerson, The Tampa Tribune’s education beat reporter.
I have to give the Democrats credit. They have centered their campaign on votes they are likely to obtain and at universities such as USF where the graduation rates for black students are on par with those of their white counterparts.
Do Republicans smell defeat with University students?
It seems to me that the Republican Party is simply not interested in USF. The prevailing opinion of the McCain ticket is that USF, like other universities, is full of liberals unwilling to listen to the McCain message. That school of thought is not entirely without merit. But I wonder if he’s right about targeting audiences other than USF. While he is unlikely to receive more votes here than Obama, McCain’s indifference and utter neglect of this institution has left an unpalatable taste in my mouth.
Ryan Blaney is a senior majoring in English.