Hundreds of political activists and enthusiasts from both ends of the political spectrum flooded into the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum at the Institute of Politics on Monday to watch as the Iowa caucuses unfolded, marking the official start to the 2016 presidential election.
Members of the Harvard College Democrats, the Harvard Republican Club, and Harvard United For Bernie all camped out in the forum to watch the beginning of the nomination process while munching on chips, goldfish, and chocolate-drizzled popcorn.
IOP director Carrie S. Devine estimated a turnout of 400 to 450 people, largely made up of students from the College and the Kennedy School of Government.
The Harvard College Democrats watched a close race play out between former Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton and United States Senator Bernie Sanders in Iowa. The Sanders fans watched nervously as the vote was split evenly throughout the night.
“It’s great. It’s exciting that we all get to be here and see it on the big screen,” said Susan X. Wang ’17, president of the Harvard College Democrats.
A low point in the night for some Democrats came when Martin J. O’Malley, former governor of Maryland, decided to suspend his campaign after a poor showing in the caucuses. Nick J. Abbott ’18, who formerly worked for O’Malley, said he was especially distraught.
“It’s an exciting time. I wish things had gone better for Martin O’Malley, but it is an entertainment spectacle at this point,” Abbott said. “Huge frowny-face emoji.”
The Harvard Republican Club paid close attention to the three-man race between leading GOP contenders businessman Donald J. Trump, U.S. Senator Marco A. Rubio, and U.S. Senator Ted Cruz. While Cruz, a Harvard Law School graduate, ended up winning the caucuses according to the Associated Press, Rubio had an unexpectedly strong showing, signifying he will likely be a factor for the rest of the Republican race. Trump, despite his big talk, placed second.
Aaron I. Henricks ’16, member and former president of the Harvard Republican Club, said he thought Cruz would win.
“I’m happy he beat Donald Trump,” Henricks said. “I’m happy we can say proudly and loudly that Donald Trump is a huge loser. Huge loser.”
Gwen R. Thomas ’17, president of the Harvard Republican Club, was “excited to see two tight races.”
“Since we’re watching it live, I feel like we’re watching a sports game,” she said. “It’s a great atmosphere.”
John S. Acton ’17, a member of the Harvard Republican Club, said he was looking forward to “having actual results” and was excited about “getting to the point where there are fewer candidates,” saying “it will be better for the Party and the country overall.”
Unfortunately for those interested in the Democratic race, the forum closed before the final results were tallied. At press time, the Democratic caucuses remained too close to call.—Staff writer Nathaniel J. Hiatt can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @nathaniel_hiatt.
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