March 10, 2011

Cornell Students Gear Up for 2012 Presidential Race

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Although the 2012 presidential election is more than a year away, one group of Cornell students has already begun to mobilize. While most longstanding campus political groups have yet to publicly endorse a presidential nominee, the Cornell University Students for Mitt Romney has sprung up in full support of the candidate — although the intentions of the candidate himself remain unclear.The group was founded by Karim Lakhani ’14, who contacted a national organization garnered support for Romney on college campuses. Lakhani then gathered Cornell students who he knew shared his political beliefs.“I knew I wanted to get involved [with Romney’s campaign] eventually,” Lakhani said. “But I didn’t know I was going to get involved so quickly.”Following the lead of other Romney student support organizations at schools such as Vanderbilt University and Yale University, Lakhani created the Cornell chapter to get students more involved in the upcoming presidential election.“I think Romney is a great candidate. He is probably one of the most winnable candidates for the 2012 election,” Lakhani said. “His leadership, his ability to compromise and his focus on coming together as a country are all inspiring.”While Lakhani said that the organization is currently growing at a slow rate, he is hopeful that it will gain momentum as the 2012 election season nears. Because the Republican candidacy is up in the air, it is important to start campaigning early to accumulate adequate support, he said. However, not all organizations on campus have been as quick to mobilize for the 2012 election. Peter Bouris ’12, chair of the Cornell Republicans, said his organization will endorse whoever the official Republican nominee is, but it will make no formal endorsement before that time. Bouris said, however, that with the way the presidential primaries are organized, it makes sense that organizations like Cornell University Students for Mitt Romney would want to gain support early.The Cornell University Democrats have not formally chosen a candidate to support and are instead focusing their efforts internally, the Cornell Democrats’ Director of Public Relations Ranga Kanthadai ’14 said. While the Cornell Democrats are planning to support President Barack Obama for reelection, he said, the organization is currently focusing on membership recruitment and increasing political awareness across campus. “Democracy is not a spectator sport. It involves people taking action,” Kanthadai said. “As nonpartisan as this may sound, I believe voting, regardless of the party of candidate, is one of the biggest constitutional freedoms that separates our country from others.” Many Cornell students said they are excited that various political organizations are already preparing for the upcoming election.“I think it’s important to have separate political opinions being voiced, and have all these opinions represented,” Sam Rotbart ’14 said. “No matter which political party makes the first move, the other one is going to follow suit. If it starts early enough, these organizations will be spreading information to the student body and faculty, which is always positive.”While it remains unclear when each political organization on campus will formally endorse a candidate, some Cornellians expect a politically-charged election season. “This race is definitely going to be difficult,” Lakhani said. “I am going to do whatever I can in my power to make sure we win.”

Original Author: Alyson Warhit