Harvard Democrats Face Choice: Massachusetts or New Hampshire

A razor thin lead for President Barack Obama in New Hampshire and a Massachusetts Senate race that is too close to call have Harvard College politicos racing to Nov. 6, forced to decide where to invest their diminishing time and resources.

Because Massachusetts almost always votes Democrat in presidential elections, Harvard College Democrats and Republicans typically spend the final weeks before election day knocking on doors and handing out flyers across the border in New Hampshire, a perennial swing state.

But this time around, the groups have been pullled back into Massachusetts, where a tight Senate race between U.S. Senator Scott Brown and Harvard Law School professor Elizabeth Warren has attracted national attention and a glut of local resources.

“Obviously Massachusetts hadn’t elected a Republican senator for a few there’s a lot of enthusiasm on campus about how unusual a circumstance it is that Massachusetts can help keep the Senate blue,” said Simon M. Thompson ’14, the campaign coordinator for the Democrats. “Especially since the Brown election was held while students were off-campus, this time around we have a really incredible opportunity.”

Campus interns for both presidential and senatorial campaigns have taken the lead organizing phone banks, canvassing trips, and other “get out the vote” efforts in both states, leaving political club leaders and their members with the decision about where to devote their efforts.

“Every campaign wants your resources,” said Derek J. Bekebrede ’13, the president of the College Republicans, during a canvassing trip earlier this month. “It’s definitely a decision, but for us it was how do we make most efficient use of our resources.”

Democratic and Republican leaders said that the two groups have tried to divide their time fairly between races, alternating weekend canvassing trips to New Hampshire and Eastern Massachusetts. Bekebrede said the Republicans decide on a “case by case” basis. Last weekend, they attended a rally on the North Shore while this weekend they will bus to New Hampshire with the Democrats.

Thompson said the Dems did not face a major dilemma between campaigns until last weekend, when 35 members went to New Hampshire and 20 to 25 elected to join the College Democrats of Massachusetts in Plymouth to canvass for Warren. Prior to that weekend, Warren’s campaign had been focused on registering voters, an initiative that required fewer volunteers. Warren’s campaign registered 154 Harvard students, Thompson said.

“Until election day it is going to be be an all out effort,” Thompson said. The Democrats have buses scheduled to go to New Hampshire this weekend and on election day, but he said that he also imagines there will be plenty of Democrats who stay in-state, helping the Warren campaign. It will be up to individual students to decide between the two, Thompson said, though he imagines more students will be drawn northward.

“Probably what it just comes down to right now is the polls. Warren is up and there’s a lot of fluctuation nationally,” he said.

—Staff writer Nicholas P. Fandos can be reached at nicholasfandos@college.harvard.edu.

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