As election nears, campus conservatives organize

Thursday, November 8, 2007

As the presidential campaign gains momentum, campus groups supporting three of the Democratic candidates – Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) – are working hard to engage students and raise support for their candidates.

But according to Marc Frank ’09, the Republican Party liaison for the Brown Spectator and president of the College Republicans, no groups have formed around individual Republican candidates. Most of the right-wing political energy on campus is channeling through the College Republicans, which wants to be active in the primaries even though the group is not yet endorsing a specific candidate.

“Our group is pretty divided over who to support,” said Sean Quigley ’10, treasurer of the College Republicans and Herald Opinions Columnist. “The largest contingent is for Romney. But we don’t want to leave a few people out to the wayside because they don’t support our candidate, so we aren’t supporting anyone.”

Quigley said he personally supports John McCain. “I like that he doesn’t pander as much as the others. I admire his campaign and the fire he has in him,” Quigley said.

Even though the group is not fully supporting any one candidate, the members are planning to get involved in next year’s presidential election, according to Frank.

Besides bringing more speakers to campus, members of the group hope to spend a weekend in New Hampshire canvassing for Republican candidates. The College Republicans estimate about 20 students will go on the trip, which will take place on an undetermined date after Thanksgiving break. Frank said each student who makes the trek will be at liberty to support the candidate of his or her choice. He said he thinks that four or five different candidates will be represented.

The participants will pay their own expenses for the drive up to New Hampshire – and Frank said they can only hope that, once they arrive, the established campaign groups will help them find housing. He said they would sleep on the floor at campaign headquarters, if necessary.

“For the upcoming election, our goal is to just be bodies on the ground and get as many people doing whatever work needs to be done,” Frank said. He said he tends to lean conservative on economic issues and hasn’t decided whether he prefers former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani and or Romney.

“Giuliani is strong on continuing the war on terror, on strong, smaller government – he’s very electable. I think Romney is the most intelligent, well spoken and informed,” said Frank, who interned for former Sen. Lincoln Chafee’s ’75 (R-R.I.) Senate campaign last year.

“I like working on campaigns,” he said. “There’s a lot of grunt work – folding envelopes and making calls. But it’s a very exciting experience and you really get a feel for how a campaign is actually going.”

Frank said he would like to see the College Republicans become more involved with the upcoming election and thinks their task will be easier once the primaries are over.

“We can have a more unified front working,” he said. “Rhode Island may not be competitive but because we are close to New Hampshire, we will really be up there and working for our candidate. That’s the one place I think, as college students, we can really do some good work.”

Aside from their involvement in the elections, campus Republicans say they enjoy being in the minority on Brown’s liberal campus.

“I have to say I’ve enjoyed being a conservative at Brown,” said Pratik Chougule ’08, former editor-in-chief of the Brown Spectator. “The people are really interested in ideas, and if you engage people respectfully everyone appreciates it. I’ve become more confident in my views because they are always being challenged.”

Indeed, because College Republicans isn’t specifically geared toward campaigning, the members have also been able to engage in other forms of activism.

Last month, several members held counter-protests to the weekly anti-war protests held on the corner of Waterman and Thayer streets.

“We had signs saying ‘Honk to support the war’ and ‘Honk to bomb Iran,’ ” Chougule said. “It was obviously done to mock their protest – but we got more support than you might think.”

“We really do have to make sure we stay active and have a response to things that are going on,” Quigley said.

But the Republicans on Brown’s campus are not all about shock factor.

“We really want to bring in speakers that add a more balanced dialogue. We would like to get politicians to come in and talk about why they support specific candidates,” Frank said.

The College Republicans brought Robert Spencer to talk about Islamofacism and other speakers involved with the Chafee’s 2006 Senate campaign. They don’t have any definite plans for upcoming speakers but would like to have Gov. Donald Carcieri ’65 or Kenneth Starr MA’69 speak at the University.

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