By Edward Ngai
Campus political groups have been accelerating their get-out-the-vote and canvassing efforts, rallying supporters both on campus and out of state. Nearing the final week of the campaign, both the Stanford College Republicans and Stanford Democrats have sent students on canvassing trips in Nevada and are seeing increased enthusiasm as the Nov. 6 election draws nearer.
Because California is not going to be a competitive state in the presidential race, campus political groups have focused on phone banking to mobilize support elsewhere.
According to Nick Ahamed ’15, a neighborhood team leader for President Obama’s grassroots campaign, a group of about 50 Stanford Democrats have made around 18,000 phone calls to swing states for the November elections. The past two weekends, the Democrats have been calling from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. asking voters to support the president.
The Stanford College Republicans are phone banking as well, but have no information about how many Stanford students have been calling on behalf of Mitt Romney. Rather, the College Republicans connect interested students directly with campaigns, according to President Mary Ann Toman-Miller ’14.
Both political groups have their eyes on nearby Nevada, whose six electoral votes are important for both candidates’ White House aspirations. A group of Democrats spent the weekend working with Obama’s field office in Reno and will be returning this weekend. Ahamed estimates 30 students will be going to Reno with the Democrats on Friday.
Stanford Republicans have also facilitated volunteering with the Romney ground operation in Nevada. According to Winston Chang ’14, vice-president of the College Republicans, around 15 students traveled to Nevada last weekend and the same number will be campaigning for the Republican candidate this coming weekend.
While the top of the ticket is the focus for both groups’ campaigns, Stanford students have also been active in other races. Members of the Stanford Democrats have travelled to Stockton, Calif. to support the city council campaign of Michael Tubbs ’12 and organized people to phone bank for him.
According to Lamont, it is easier to get students energized for the presidential contest than for down-ballot races or referenda.
“At Stanford, the majority of students are not from California,” she said. “It’s a lot easier to get people involved with the presidential election than with state-specific issues.”
On campus, both the Stanford Democrats and College Republicans have been using policy events to engage the student body.
“We are trying to engage [students] through the issues by inviting speakers to address election topics on campus,” said Lindsay Lamont ’13, president of the Stanford Democrats. Last week the Democrats co-hosted a dinner and discussion with Lupe Rodriguez, director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood San Mateo. Political Science Professor Gary Segura addressed the group Monday about the impact of the Latino vote.
The Stanford Review sponsored an event featuring Libertarian Vice Presidential Candidate Jim Gray on Oct. 25 at the Graduate School of Business. The College Republicans hosted Bob Inglis, a former South Carolina congressman, who discussed environmental issues on Oct. 10. Difficulties in scheduling guests have hampered some of their event plans.
“Unfortunately [a lot of] Stanford professors are out travelling around the United States,” Chang said.
So far in the campaign, political groups have taken a low-key approach to rallying support. While, according to Toman-Miller, the College Republicans continue relying on “word-of-mouth,” the Democrats are ramping up their presence on campus in the week leading up to the election. They will be hosting a rally in White Plaza Nov. 2 in an attempt to revive the enthusiasm voters felt for Obama four years ago.
“ was a lot more exciting of an election,” Ahamed said. “I don’t know the numbers, but [supporters in 2008] were doing two or three times the number of calls we’re doing now … some students feel frustrated with Obama.”
As the election nears, a sense of urgency has descended upon Democratic supporters, who logged 2,700 phone calls to voters last Thursday night alone, more than the entire quarter last spring.
Political organizations on the right are also sensing more urgency as Romney’s poll numbers have improved in the closing weeks of the campaign. Conservatives are confident that students will turn out to support Mitt Romney.
“There’s a lot more enthusiasm behind Romney than there was during the 2008 campaign, or even in 2010,” said Kyle Huwa ’13, president of the Stanford Conservative Society.
According to Chang, the mission of the College Republicans to translate that enthusiasm into increased turnout for conservative candidates.
“We get those people who are registered Republicans, who want to work on the campaign, [and] help them support Romney,” he said. “That’s our purpose.”
Varun Vijay contributed reporting to this article.