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BU Republicans Throw Their Support Behind…

No one

| From BU Today | By Leslie Friday

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (top, from left), Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, businessman Herman Cain; (bottom, from left) Texas Congressman Ron Paul, Texas Governor Rick Perry, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. Photos by Gage Skidmore

Barack Obama may lack the heated support of college students that helped lift him into the Oval Office three years ago, but compared to any Republican contender, he’s Mr. Popularity. The New York Times reported last week that its interviews suggest most of Obama’s 2008 college supporters are still with him. Trying to find out which Republican candidate will garner the college vote seems to be, at this point, an exercise in futility.

“The field will continue to be shaken up and refined down to the most viable candidates over the next few months,” says Alyssa Farah, communications director at the College Republican National Committee. “As the primaries get closer, we expect to see young people come out for their favorite candidates.”

It’s true that election day is nearly a year away, but it’s also true that Republican candidates have made it hard to have faith, at least for any length of time: their candidates rocket up in the polls, only to commit political hara-kiri.

The first to go was Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, who won the Iowa straw poll in August, but shot herself in the foot by peppering her speeches with inaccurate, and whacky, statements (she claimed the nation’s founding fathers worked tirelessly to end slavery).

Texas Governor Rick Perry soared in the polls, only to sputter in debates and then implode on national television when he couldn’t remember one of the three government agencies he’d promised to dismantle if elected president.

Next came former pizza tycoon Herman Cain, who lost nearly half of his female Republican supporters after four women accused him of sexual harassment. Cain also blanked in a televised interview when asked whether he agreed with Obama’s position on Libya.

The current rising star appears to be former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who led the pack in a recent nationwide poll conducted by Public Policy Polling. Gallup polls also indicate that he has a better positive image among all voters than former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who remains the party’s top contender.

Texas Congressman Ron Paul, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, and former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman are still polling in the single digits.

So in whom, exactly, do BU Republicans put their faith?

“It is difficult for me to get very excited about any of the guys running,” says Gregory DeSocio (SMG’12), president of BU College Republicans. “Each person has had their chance at being the front-runner and then everyone was like, ‘Eh, next guy.’”

Allison Daley (CAS’12) votes pro-life and says she likes Romney’s stance against the death penalty. It doesn’t hurt either that he’s stayed above the fray. “I feel like his on-the-surface image to the public is generally positive,” she says.

David Martinez (SMG’13) was more lukewarm about the former governor. Although undecided, he likes Romney and Perry for their executive experience. Yet Gingrich has caught his eye as an experienced candidate whose “policies are good.”

“I think he’s probably one of the better debaters,” Martinez says.

DeSocio was drawn to Cain after Chris Christie, governor of DeSocio’s home state of New Jersey, announced he would forego a presidential bid. “I like the fact that Cain is a very successful businessman who has a lot of executive experience,” he says, “but at the same time I know there is more involved with the presidency than to do well with the economy.”

Libertarian Anthony Priestas (GRS’12), who served in the Florida Army National Guard for nine years, favors Paul and former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson. “The rest of them aren’t quite there in terms of total social and economic freedoms,” Priestas says.

His favorite is Paul, whom he calls the last great statesman of our era. “He’s extraordinarily honest, compassionate, and he abides by the Constitution,” says Priestas, president of the student group Liberty at Boston University.

Independent voter Stephen Khanoyan (CAS’07, GSM’13) regards Huntsman as one of the few Republican candidates “who make sense” and is not “an extremist.” The Navy veteran of two deployments, one in Iraq and another in Afghanistan, says the former ambassador to China is a moderate who works well with both parties and doesn’t pander to the far right.

“Republicans need to realize they need a normal person to stand up and take the nomination,” Khanoyan says.

That observation may explain a recent Gallup poll indicating that 45 percent of Republicans, regardless of who they support, believe that the relatively moderate Romney will ultimately wind up as the party’s nominee.

“In the Republican field right now, you always hear everyone talking about the people they don’t like or the people who didn’t meet their expectations, rather than someone that they really love as a candidate,” says Alyssa Moni (COM’12). “It is almost like the party is settling for Mitt Romney because they feel he has the best chance at beating President Obama in the general election.”

Many students, like Republican voters of all ages, question the former Massachusetts governor’s electability. “The far righters, they don’t like Mormons,” says Khanoyan of Romney and his religion. “He really would have an uphill battle. And more moderate voters don’t like him because he comes across as very phony.”

That means Republicans and Independents may face a familiar dilemma: do they vote for the candidate they like, or vote for the person who could beat Obama.

Priestas already knows what he will do. “Either I’ll go to the polls and write Paul in, or stay home and not vote,” he says. “If that means throwing the election or handing it to Obama, then so be it.”

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