Oct. 5, 2008
Story by Ebony McCline
ST LOUIS – It was less than a minute until the start of Thursday night’s vice presidential debate. A sea of Washington University student’s filled Danforth University Center at Washington University chanting a countdown from 10 to 1. Then yells and applause erupted.
Supporters of Republicans John McCain and Sarah Palin were sprinkled among the heavily Democratic crowd. That’s why, some college Republicans said, they need to be even louder to get their voices heard.
“We know we have to be active and loud because there are so few of us,” said Steven White, a freshman at Washington University.
In the hours leading up to Thursday’s debate between Palin and Democrat Sen. Joe Biden, the campus swarmed with supporters of Barack Obama and his vice-presidential pick. Inside the viewing party it was no different. However, McCain/Palin supporters proudly wore their red “Team McCain/Palin” T-shirts.
“Being a Republican is part of my identity,” said White, who is originally from New York City. “I’m proud of it.”
Ellen Drott, a Washington University freshman, wore a T-shirt that represented both campaigns: the front was red and read “Team McCain/Palin, the back was blue and read “Team Obama/Biden.”
“Technically, I am undecided,” said Drott, “But if I had to vote today, I would vote for McCain.”
Representing both campaigns made it easier for Drott to bounce from group to group, she said. She said even though there was more visible support for Obama/Biden, the McCain/Palin supporters had better arguments.
As hundreds of students watched the debate on a huge projector screen, there wasn’t much talking, although loud screams and cheers occasionally rang out. Some signs boasted: “Biden is hotter than Palin.”
In the days leading up to the face-off between the veteran Delaware senator and the Alaska governor, enthusiasm on campus grew.
Senior Charis Fischer is the president of the College Republicans, a student organization at Washington University.
“The general climate is one of excitement,” Fischer said. “I think it’s getting a lot more people interested in the election than otherwise would be.”
When it was first announced that the vice presidential debate would be held at Washington University, there was little enthusiasm because of three prior presidential debates had been held at the school, said Steve Givens, associate vice chancellor of public affairs.
That changed when McCain named the little-known Palin.
There’s no question that being a Republican on campus has its moments, said White the freshman.
A recent column in the campus newspaper Student Life, titled “R.I.P. College Republicans,” writer Eve Samborn, a Democrat herself, notes the College Republicans have not been as active this semester.
Republicans are hard to find on this campus, agrees White. He said no one really wears Republican buttons, and when people mention they’re GOP leanings, they get weird looks or smart comments.
There are more McCain/Palin supporters in the law school, said law professor Michael Koby. Republican supporters are more reluctant to discuss who they support probably because they are the minority, he said.
Fischer and her group are trying to increase awareness and support at Washington University.
“We try to submit articles to the various publications on campus to let other conservatives know that they’re not alone,” she said.
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