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Scores of students lined up at the Institute of Politics (IOP) Friday to learn about internships and get involved with Democratic presidential campaigns.
Despite President Bush’s popularity, the Democratic partisans expressed hope that their party could take the White House in 2004.
“The weather climate is like the political climate, but we are encouraged,” said IOP Student Activities Coordinator Ben Dobbs.
Representatives for Governor Howard Dean of Vermont, Senator John Edwards, D-N.C., Representative Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., Senator Joe Lieberman, D-Conn. and Senator John Kerry, D-Mass., mingled with students and recruited campaign volunteers for the New Hampshire Democratic primary next year.
“I hope the students learn more about the campaigns, better inform themselves of potential opportunities and see if there’s a place for them in public service,” Dobbs said.
Despite President Bush’s high popularity, event participants remained optimistic about a Democratic win in the 2004 presidential race.
“I don’t think the support for Bush will last through the war,” said Angelina L. Fryer ’03. “There are so many Democratic candidates, and Bush can be unseated if they run a good campaign, a real campaign.”
Representatives of Democratic candidates said that the high student interest in domestic issues is an encouraging sign that Bush can no longer focus so much on foreign affairs.
“The student turnout is fantastic. People are more and more concerned about the direction our country is heading in, and the economy is really on people’s minds now,” said Karen Hicks, New Hampshire state director of the Dean for President campaign.
She added that she believes Dean’s anti-war stance, his support of universal health care and a balanced budget would appeal to student voters.
Some students said they feel the Democrats need a clear focus to gain support and challenge Bush.
“Before the war, the Democrats were giving in to Bush too much, but I think that a good number of candidates got over that, and I’ve been happy with the way the Democrats handled domestic issues,” said Fryer. “I don’t want the two parties to be the same party.”
Dahm Choi ’05, who trekked to the Supreme Court last week to rally in favor of affirmative action, said that the event gave students an opportunity to get involved with national politics.
“I was looking forward to finding out ways to get involved in campaigns, and I think it’s important that Harvard prepares events like these,” said Choi.
Representatives advised students who want to get involved in campaigns that the process includes both hard work and rewards.
“There’s nothing more rewarding than working on the New Hampshire primary,” said Geoff Ward, field coordinator for Gephardt who also worked for Al Gore ’69 in his failed bid for the presidency in 2000.
Ward and other representatives said they feel that Harvard students are particularly well-informed about the political process and are effective campaign workers.
“Harvard students have the aptitude to do this sort of work. They know what they are doing, ask real, in-depth questions, and are looking at the whole picture here,” Ward said.
He also assured potential campaign volunteers that they would find chances for real involvement.
“You can move up quickly once you get involved,” said Ward. “I’m not going off to get coffee—I’m involved in the real thing.”
Rob McCarthy ’02, who worked on former New Hampshire Governor Jeanne Shaheen’s unsuccessful senate campaign and is currently the deputy state director of Kerry’s campaign, echoed Ward’s encouragement to get involved.
“I’ve learned more than I ever thought I could,” McCarthy said. “The best thing for me is to see the click in people’s heads when they hear about an issue, it’s such a cool effect.”
—Staff writer Yingzhen Zhang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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