Campus GOP, Dems gear up for long haul

Illustration by Teddy Lu

Illustration by Teddy Lu

By Paolo Cisneros

Bobby McNeily, sophomore in FAA and president of College Republicans, has his work cut out for him this fall.

“Champaign-Urbana, from what I’ve seen, is pretty evenly split down the middle (of the political spectrum),” he said. “Our goal is to get students involved in politics while getting Republican candidates elected.”

Despite their ideological differences, McNeily’s counterpart, Eric Preston, junior in LAS and president of the College Democrats, also has high hopes for winning the student vote in November.

“Our main goal, at this point, is to prepare for the elections,” he said. “We’re working with a number of different (groups) to try to produce change whether it be in the form of elected office or lobbying public officials.”

While they disagree on a spectrum of issues, they share the same goal: win the University vote in November.

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Both organizations have plans to become more active this semester than in years past as a direct result of this year’s heated presidential contest.

It is difficult to predict just how University students and the rest of the Champaign-Urbana community will vote because voters in Illinois do not register by party, —as is the case in many other states, said Champaign County Clerk Mark Shelden.

The only available predictor of election results are previous election results, he said.

While using past vote counts as an indicator for future political contests is an unscientific way of predicting outcomes, the most recent results show that McNeily and the College Republicans have more work ahead of them than the College Democrats if they hope to win the local vote.

In the Feb. 5 presidential primary, 35.6 percent of registered voters in Champaign County cast a ballot, according to the County Clerk’s office.

Nearly 60 percent of those votes went to Democratic candidates, and of the 40 percent who voted Republican, almost half voted for former candidate Mitt Romney.

Despite those numbers, McNeily said he feels confident as he and Preston prepare to lead their respective organizations in a number of projects aimed at ensuring their victory on a local and national scale.

While the College Republicans are suffering from the minor growing pains that come with having an entirely new executive board, the organization is working to enlist students to work phone drives and distribute Republican literature door-to-door in a grassroots effort to ensure a Republican victory, McNeily said.

The College Democrats, on their part, are busy supporting phone drives and organizing road trips to surrounding states to support the Obama campaign.

Both organizations, however, plan to build coalitions with like-minded groups in an effort to attract new members.

The College Republicans are working with anti-abortion and pro-gun rights groups, while the College Democrats are in the process of making plans with cultural groups and a variety of other Registered Student Organizations.

But despite their differences in target audiences and political beliefs, both McNeily and Preston said they have their hands full for the duration of the next two months.

“Last year there wasn’t as much activity because we don’t endorse candidates during the primary season,” McNeily said. “This is going to be a fun race.”