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Students interested in Iowa caucuses

Katie Peralta and Jenn Metz | Tuesday, December 11, 2007

When Notre Dame sophomores Lindsey Hough and Matthew Callanan return to their homes in Iowa for winter break, they will be tossed right into the center of heated political races, as Democrats and Republicans battle in the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 3.

The caucuses, the first primary competition in the country for the 2008 presidential candidates, have been a focus of national attention for weeks. Caucuses are different from other primary elections in their form. Most primaries are decided by secret-ballot votes, but Iowa has a system that requires voters to assemble at an assigned location, listen to speeches by supporters of different candidates and publicly express support and be counted for one person running.

Sen. Barack Obama, a Democrat from Illinois, and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a Republican, currently lead their respective parties in the state, according to a recent Des Moines Register Iowa poll.

Hough, of Shelby County, Iowa, said she plans to participate in the caucus in Des Moines.

“Both parties have their own set of caucuses in Iowa, and most of the top-tier candidates will travel around to different locations to speak,” Hough said.

She said she plans to observe candidates before deciding whom she will support.

“I think I want to get a better feel for things, talk to a few people there [in Des Moines], before making up my mind,” she said.

Callanan, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, also plans to participate in the caucuses.

“It is going to depend on my work schedule and everything, but I have not had that much time to focus on the candidates,” Callanan said. He said it was important to be informed about a candidate before he voted.

“You should know where a candidate stands,” Callanan said.

The Notre Dame College Republicans and College Democrats have been spreading messages about Republican and Democratic themes to the University community.

Each group works to elect members of their own parties to political office by gathering support on campus.

Under current Student Activities Office rules, students cannot create groups to support individual primary candidates because those groups would be, by their nature, temporary. Furthermore, the CCC does not allocate funds to groups that support specific candidates for public office.

Senior Josh Kempf, the chairman of the College Republicans, said next semester, after many of the state primaries, the group will “jump into action.”

“Because they are primaries, we as a club do not support any candidates,” Kempf said, adding that members do tend to personally support various Republican Party candidates on their own.

After the primaries, Kempf said, College Republicans and College Democrats will begin their official support for their party’s presidential candidate.