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Campus groups mobilize over 2008 election

Kaitlynn Riely | Friday, September 5, 2008

No matter who wins the presidential election this fall, there’s going to be a big celebration at Notre Dame.

“We’ll have the biggest party that Notre Dame’s ever seen,” Edward Yap, the president of the Notre Dame College Republicans, said. “Regardless of whoever wins, we’ll have tons of fun at it.”

But Yap is hoping for a victory by the Republican ticket of Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska. He said the club might look into booking an off-campus location to watch the election returns Nov. 4.

Across the political spectrum, Notre Dame College Democrats co-president Spencer Howard is anticipating a win by the Democratic ticket of Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and Delaware Sen. Joe Biden.

“We ran through Stonehenge to celebrate [Rep.] Joe Donnelly’s win [in 2006],” he said. “We’re hoping for another one of those moments.”

With sixty days to go until the election, both Yap and Howard fully support their party’s ticket – and each is confident his candidate will emerge victorious.

The stretch from the nominating conventions to Election Day will be a “two month long event,” Howard said, and both clubs plan to use the last stretch of what has been a longer-than-usual election year to get students interested in the democratic process and, more importantly, interested in voting for their candidate.

Howard and Yap burst into their roles as the representatives of their respective party’s ticket early this semester, with the Democratic National Convention taking place the first week of classes and the Republican National Convention occurring the second.

Howard said he thought the speakers at the Democratic convention did a great job bringing the party together, in light of speculation that disappointed supporters of former presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) would not back Obama.

“I think after the convention and hearing from the Clintons and Barack Obama and Sen. Biden, people have kind of come together,” Howard said.

One of the main stories at the Republican convention has been the emergence of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin on the national scene, with McCain choosing her as his running mate.

“I absolutely love Sarah Palin,” Yap said. “I think she’s a great candidate. She is perhaps the best candidate McCain could have chosen. When they win in November, she’ll be an awesome vice president.”

Of course, Howard disagreed with Yap.

“I don’t think the pick was looked into enough, as a lot of reports are coming out, he met with her once,” he said. “I don’t think it was a very careful pick.”

Howard and Yap also diverged on their views on Obama’s running mate, Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware.

“It was a horrendous pick, because for someone running on a platform of change, choosing someone that is a Beltway insider doesn’t make any sense for me,” Yap said. “His entire career has been D.C.”

Howard said he thinks Obama made a great decision in choosing Biden.

“He has a lot of experience, especially foreign relations,” Howard said. “I think Obama’s comfortable working with him, since they spent time together on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He’s a fighter. He’s willing to go to bat for the people who need help.”

The one issue on which Howard and Yap did agree, however, was that this election has caught the interest of students at Notre Dame, and the interest of college-aged young adults in general.

“We see this election as something that will really influence our futures,” Yap said. “We are all 18 to 22, so this election will really make a huge impact on our jobs and where we go after college, and the economy and nation that we head into after we graduate.”

Howard said his outlook may be skewed by the fact that he is a political science major (so is Yap), but he said he has been struck by the interest students are showing in the presidential campaign this fall.

“People seem to have gotten into it and become involved,” he said. “They’re curious to see what’s going to happen after the election – where we are going, and what’s in store for them.”

The College Republicans and the College Democrats are both planning debate watches and election night watches. More immediately, the College Democrats are joining with other college students in Northern Indiana to work for Democratic candidates from a central office on Mishawaka Ave.

The College Republicans are heading to a McCain/Palin campaign rally today in Michigan.

Howard’s and Yap’s involvement in politics go beyond their leadership of the College Democrats and the College Republicans at Notre Dame. This summer, Howard, a senior, worked for a nonprofit group near Washington, D.C. organizing voter outreach targeted mainly at Democrat-leaning constituents.

Yap worked for Luke Puckett, who is running for Indiana’s 2nd District against incumbent Democrat Joe Donnelly. Yap, a junior, still holds his job as Puckett’s deputy finance and field director. When asked how he balances taking classes with working for Puckett, Yap said “less sleep.”