January 4, 2008

Making Our Mark on the Presidential Race

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As eyes turn rapidly to New Hampshire, I can’t help but look at the results of yesterday’s caucuses and wonder how much students played a role (and will continue to play a role) in this year’s presidential race more than ever before. A January 2nd New York Times article asks a similar question, focusing on how many out-of-state college students would arrive early from their winter breaks to skew the results. Obama tried lure out-of-state students back: “He told students at the University of Iowa, if you’re going to be out of state, I want you to come back and caucus,'” while others, including Clinton, seemed less inclined to include non-Iowans. Approximately 220,000 people showed up to the Democratic caucuses, much more than the high-end prediction of 150,000; about 120,000 showed up for the Republican caucuses. And as the numbers seem to indicate, Barack Obama attracted the young voters, including the young women, better than Hillary Clinton did, almost by 8 entire points in Iowa. David Axelrod, a senior adviser to the Obama campaign, said he believes his team drew “a great deal of young people.” “Last time, one in eight caucus-goers was under 45 years old,” he said. “I think this time about 40 percent were under 45.” When there are only a couple hundred thousand votes at stake, it seems Obama made the right move in identifying his strengths and playing on them for a win. It is heartening to see that a concentrated group of dedicated, politically active students are making their mark on the process. Here’s to hoping it’s just the beginning.

Now the question is, does an Iowa victory mean a bigger chance at securing the nomination, and eventually the White House? If so, is it fair for 220,000 Iowans to have a bigger say about the presidency than the rest of America?

Update: Inside Higher Ed has compiled more polling evidence of the increased youth presence yesterday.

Julie Geng is a Sun Senior Editor. She can be contacted at [email protected].