From campus to capital

It’s been almost four months since the presidential election came to an end and America chose Barack Obama as the 44th person to take the executive office.

College Democrats and College Republicans worked diligently to spread the message of their parties. Now that election season is over and canvassing has concluded, campus political groups are switching gears.

“Our biggest issue right now is fostering better communication between the Republican Party and the College Republicans at USF,” said Charles Sherrard, College Republicans president. “The McCain camp was completely disengaged from College Republicans,”

Any disconnect between political party leaders and members is detrimental, but in the case of the 2008 election — when getting the youth vote was a deciding factor — it proved to be a critical mistake for the McCain campaign, he said.

“Obama did a good job with his Web site and Facebook and placing people all over campus. McCain just didn’t,” Sherrard said.

Matthew Coppens, president of USF’s College Democrats, said national attention from the Obama campaign provided the organization with a pre-election boost.

“Our service list grew from 110 to 400, and a lot of that had to do with Joe Biden’s visit,” Coppens said.

He said College Democrats made their presence known on campus by holding numerous meetings, distributing pamphlets and registering first-time voters.

Naturally, the organization saw a drop-off in its membership after the election,
he said.

Despite a similar drop in volunteers, Sherrard said the College Republicans have seen a substantial increase in meeting attendance since last year and are fighting to make their presence known “in a liberal environment.”

“It’s kind of frustrating going to any kind of university — the whole atmosphere of party, party, party,” he said. “People assume conservative Republicans are few and far between.”

Sherrard said some College Republicans have been verbally accosted and even spat on.

The creation of a conservative newspaper and an anti-abortion group called Bulls for Life are just some of the things Sherrard said members have planned to keep College Republicans visible on campus.

Coppens, who is gearing up for a position with Miami Rep. Kendrick Meek’s senatorial campaign, said the College Democrats are focused on making a political impact at the local and state levels.

Rebuilding the party is one of the main focuses of the Republican platform right now, and Sherrard believes targeting a younger demographic is part of the process.

“College students are not represented enough in the national government. A lot of the legislatures on both sides are out of touch,” Sherrard said. “They’re completely oblivious to issues like drugs on campus and school

For now, he said, it’s up to college organizations to make them aware of it.

College Republicans meet Thursdays in the Marshall Student Center at 7 p.m. and College Democrats meet Wednesdays in the Marshall Student Center at 7:30 p.m.