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Dems travel to capital

John Tierney | Tuesday, February 6, 2007

For many Democrats, the opportunity to meet and greet with the Democratic presidential candidates in 2008 would be a dream come true. For the Notre Dame College Democrats, this dream became a reality over the weekend at the annual Democratic National Committee (DNC) Winter Meetings in Washington, D.C.

The meetings, the last official gathering of the DNC before the 2008 convention, provided delegates from throughout the country and leaders of both College Democrats and Young Democrats with the opportunity to meet presidential hopefuls and to discuss issues relevant to the party’s platform.

Candidates Joe Biden, Wesley Clark, Hillary Clinton, Chris Dodd, John Edwards, Dennis Kucinich, Barack Obama, Bill Richardson and Tom Vilsack all gave speeches and met with representatives from the College Democrats nationwide this weekend.

The most well known candidates made the biggest splash early at the meetings, as Clinton, Edwards and Obama all spoke on the convention’s first day.

Obama was greeted with a supportive response, especially from the meeting’s younger delegates.

“Obama has a huge following in the youth community and he gave a great speech that resembled his speech at the convention in 2004,” Notre Dame College Democrats co-president Helen Adeosun said.

John Edwards was also impressive at the mini-convention, she said.

“People were really supercharged by Edwards,” Adeosun said. “He really motivated and fired up the crowd with a question and response-style speech.”

Freshman Matt Molloy went on the trip to Washington, D.C. as well and agreed that Obama and Edwards lived up to their hype.

“I thought Obama and Edwards gave good, rousing speeches that got everyone in the crowd going,” he said. “They really made people want to support them.”

While Obama, Edwards and Clinton continue to dominate the presidential debate nationally, former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson’s campaign is gaining momentum, as evidenced by the excitement surrounding his appearance this weekend.

“Richardson did very well speaking on the second day,” Adeosun said. “He had a huge presence there. A lot of people are very excited about his campaign because it makes everything so rich. Richardson livens up a lot of hope as a candidate and he brings a lot of moderates to the table.”

College Democrats co-president Megan Hawley and Molloy were able to meet Richardson in a small group setting.

“I personally met Richardson and Vilsack. I also shook Obama’s hand, but I didn’t get a chance to talk to him,” Molloy said.

The College Democrats’ main goal for 2006 was to help elect Joe Donnelly to Indiana’s Second Congressional District seat, and now the club is firmly focused on the 2008 presidential election.

“We’re just trying to position ourselves as best we can for 2008,” Adeosun said. “We need to develop new leadership of mostly freshmen and sophomores, and that’s what this trip was really good for. We’re priming other people to take over the club next year.”

Adeosun, a senior, will graduate in May.

She said the club will not officially endorse a specific candidate in the 2008 primary elections, but will provide members with outlets to work for their favorite candidates.

“When I was a freshman, we went out to Iowa to support Edwards and we did some caucusing for him out there,” she said. “I can foresee the same thing happening in 2008, with a group that’s truly rallying around one candidate to go to Iowa.”

While the candidates are competing against each other in the primaries, their overall goal remains constant – to get a Democrat elected in 2008.

“A lot of candidates stressed that, no matter what happens, it’s important to vote for a Democrat in 2008,” Molloy said. “It’s the first time in a long time that the field is this wide open and it’s really exciting to be a part of it.”