In the 2000 presidential election, College sophomore Anthony Cruz’s father voted for George W. Bush. His mother voted for Al Gore.
“Everyone seemed to like Gore and as a child I didn’t know any better, so I sided with my mom,” said the political director of Penn College Republicans, who grew up in New York City.
Now, Cruz is one of several Penn students who volunteers for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s campaign.
As of Oct. 8 — a day before Pennsylvania’s voter registration deadline — there were 9,787 registered Republicans between the ages of 18 and 24 in Philadelphia, and 86,353 registered Democrats of the same age range. Pennsylvania as a whole has 213,661 registered Republicans and 376,428 registered Democrats in that age bracket.
Conservative organizations are making extra efforts to target young voters this cycle. Crossroads Generation, a political action committee launched in May, will spend $1 million or more this election cycle, according to Roll Call.
Political columnist and blogger for The Philadelphia Inquirer and public media service WHYY Dick Polman said while Obama has a lead over Romney with young voters, the Romney campaign is tapping into the disappointment young voters feel about the economy.
“[Many young voters] cast their first-ever votes for Obama four years ago, but four years later, leaving college or recently graduated, entry jobs are still relatively scarce, and many are facing the prospect of moving back in with their parents,” the journalism professor said in an email. “That alone is enough to sour a young voter.”
Campaigning for Romney
Cruz and College senior Carolyn Vinnicombe volunteer at Romney’s Philadelphia campaign office at 529 S. Fourth St., making phone calls to voters.
“My goal is to get people to, if they don’t always agree with the Republican point of view, to think about larger questions and maybe question some of their perspectives,” Vinnicombe said. She also registered walk-ins.
She described the Romney office’s atmosphere, where the heads of the office sat in the back and volunteers came in and out the front door to knock on doors and run the phones. She admires the dedication of the people who “take time out of their lives, out of their days, to do something that’s not necessarily convenient for them.”
Cruz has found many people hesitant to take the four-question survey he’s tasked with giving voters via the phone. Vinnicombe has so far had better luck — she once convinced a registered Democrat to vote for Romney after a half-hour phone call. She said she enjoys talking to voters with different opinions because it makes her “have a stronger base for [her] own political beliefs.”
Second-year Graduate School of Education student Matthew Stern campaigns for Romney in a unique way. He is a founder of the grassroots organization Raising for Romney, which raises awareness, money and support for the campaign. The organization’s website features videos submitted by people explaining why they support Romney.
“I did this grassroots organization because I could see that Democrats knew how to mobilize better than Republicans,” Stern said. Currently, the website has about 30 videos. Raising for Romney posts every video that is submitted.
Raising for Romney is not affiliated with the official Romney campaign, although the campaign approached Stern about merging the two.
“I think there’s value added when [the videos] are just completely candid and completely uncensored,” Stern said, adding that this would not have been the case had he partnered with the campaign.
He hopes that the video gallery will help make Romney a more likeable candidate.
While Cruz believes Romney is already likeable — “I believe he’s genuine,” he said — all three appreciate Romney’s focus on fiscal responsibility.
Vinnicombe, who worked in Washington, D.C., left “saying ‘Wow, we have a lot of problems with the upward trajectory on our debt.’”
Stern currently teaches sixth grade in Philadelphia.
“I have 10th-grade reading textbooks for sixth-grade writing and my kids read in the second-grade level,” Stern said. “We should be reinvesting our money into what’s important.”
In addition, Cruz emphasized that he is “pretty socially liberal.”
“I will not tell someone else … who they can and cannot marry,” he said. “I feel like it’s an issue that doesn’t belong to our time. It should be in the past.”
‘Republican in the room’
As Cruz grew older, he began to explore why his father voted for Bush in 2000. As he wound his way to the 2008 election, he did his own research and realized he was “more of a Republican.”
Vinnicombe also hails from a political family.
“Growing up, my dinner time family conversations were always about what was going on the world and how we could fix those problems,” she said. She laughed and added, “It sounds really hokey and dorky because it’s absolutely true.”
She grew up in the Democratic-oriented San Francisco Bay Area. Most of her teachers and friends from home were Democrats. In high school, she had the experience of being “the Republican in the room.”
“It prompted people to ask me tough questions which prompted me to think very critically about my own assumptions and have an open mind,” she said.
Vinnicombe said as she watched her parents build a small business from the ground up, she learned the importance for a politician to “be able to foster growth.”
While Stern’s father is “very Republican,” his mother is moderate. “It made for a good discussion,” he said.
Stern graduated from Boston University in 2011, where he studied politics. He worked on Republican Charlie Baker’s campaign for governor of Massachusetts, who lost by 7 points.
Although Stern considers himself “very Republican,” he interned with former Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy for two years. “I did military casework for him, which is something we can all agree on,” he said.
Cruz also worked for a Democrat — his congressman in New York. “I felt comfortable there,” he said. “I’m a moderate, and I just feel like you shouldn’t be polarized.” Cruz also interned with Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.).
Vinnicombe had put interning in Washington on her bucket list. During her sophomore summer, she also interned with Toomey. The next year, she did a semester in Washington, where she worked for the House Committee on Ways and Means.
“I remember going to work every day feeling like I was part of something big,” she said.
Cruz, Stern and Vinnicombe have varying degrees of future plans, but each of them have counted politics in the equation.
Stern, while he plans to teach, does not see himself staying in the school system. He plans to stay in the classroom for a time but eventually return to politics, preferably in the realm of education policy.
“I want to use the knowledge I gain from being in the classroom to transform education in this country,” he said. “It’s a mess. It’s a disaster.”
Vinnicombe is considering exploring the world of start-ups. “I want to help make the economy better,” she said. “What’s the best way to do that than helping something grow?”
However, she hasn’t forgotten D.C. She said that while the results of the November election would “determine everything,” she would “love to work in D.C. if a great opportunity presented itself.”
Cruz, the youngest of the three, shared what he deemed a “crazy hypothetical.”
“If it were possible, I would run for Congress at 25,” he said. He aspires to be a United States Representative — a position that can be both influential with the local feel of getting to know the constituents, he said. He could also see himself beginning in the private sector as Romney did before moving to the political world.
Vinnicombe summarized her aspirations simply.
“I want to do something that I love and that helps make this world a better place,” she said.