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As Biden and Trump Turn Their Focus to November, Students Relaunch Harvard for Biden

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks at Harvard College's Class of 2017 Commencement. Harvard for Biden, a campus group to support Biden's 2024 reelection campaign, launched on Feb. 17.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks at Harvard College's Class of 2017 Commencement. Harvard for Biden, a campus group to support Biden's 2024 reelection campaign, launched on Feb. 17. By Lauren A. Sierra
By Maeve T. Brennan and Grace E. Yoon, Contributing Writers

Harvard for Biden, a campus group to support U.S. President Joe Biden’s 2024 reelection campaign, launched on Feb. 17 to increase voter participation and rally support for the presumptive Democratic nominee.

Will M. Smialek ’27 and Ethan C. Kelly ’25 relaunched the group ahead of the 2024 campaign and said they hoped to follow in the footsteps of the 2020 iteration of Harvard for Biden.

Smialek and Kelly said they considered the 2020 campaign a success because it helped register approximately 83 percent of Harvard students to vote in the election — an all-time high. They both met with the original founders of Harvard for Biden “to make sure that we could bring that much energy and passion for President Biden into the 2024 organization as well,” according to Smialek.

Biden and former President Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, are expected to face off in a rematch of the 2020 election in November, a match-up that was all but confirmed on Wednesday when former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley ended her bid for the Republican nomination and Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) dropped his longshot challenge to Biden.

While Smialek said they hope to replicate the group’s success four years ago, he also sees important differences in the two electoral landscapes.

Biden is now the incumbent president in the race, which gives him “a record to run on of legislative accomplishments,” according to Smialek.

“This time, it’s about continuing the same change and enacting the same policies that he has started with since January of 2021,” Smialek added.

Meanwhile, Kelly said the club has to work hard to overcome its biggest obstacle: voter turnout.

Kelly and Smialek said they will focus on helping students register to vote and figure out how to request absentee ballots from their home states.

Kelly said that Harvard is a “bubble of so many people that come from so many different backgrounds, so many different states” — something he called “exciting” because the Harvard for Biden can help students have an impact on local elections across the whole country.

“It means that so many people have the opportunity to vote in a bunch of different states,” Kelly added.

Harvard for Biden is currently in contact with Crimson Goes Blue — a Harvard alumni network that aims to mobilize affiliates to vote for Democrats — according to Kelly and Smialek. They also plan to partner with Harvard Democrats for phone banking and canvassing efforts, in addition to building relationships with Biden re-election chapters at Georgetown University and the University of Virginia.

Kelly said a major challenge will be energizing young people to go to the polls in November.

“It is always a challenge to get people engaged and excited about an election,” Kelly said.

The group intends to make use of digital media — specifically vertical form content like TikToks and Instagram Reels — to increase the Biden campaign’s outreach to younger voters, according to Kelly.

“It’s meeting students and meeting Gen Z where they’re at,” Kelly said. “Now that we’re in a digital age, outreach is possible through simply phone messaging, through Instagram, through social media.”

“All of those things give us the opportunity to make an impact from Cambridge,” he added.

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CollegeStudent GroupsPoliticsTrumpBiden2024 Election