The College Republicans won’t be doing any campaigning on behalf of their party’s nominee, Donald Trump, but that doesn’t mean the group has disappeared this election cycle.
In the competitive Senate race between incumbent Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Democratic challenger Katie McGinty, the group has done phone banks, door-to-door canvassing and handed out flyers.
Political Engagement Director for the College Republicans and Wharton junior Sean Egan has been a major advocate for Toomey’s re-election.
“I was approached by his campaign,” said Egan, who believes Toomey is an important moderate voice in Washington. “They asked me if I’d be able to run a student initiative with the College Republicans and other conservative groups on campus, and I guess my role as political engagement director kind of made me a very common-sense person for that role.”
As the founder and head of Penn for Toomey, Egan has encouraged members of the College Republicans to participate in grassroots organizing for the campaign. Toomey’s race is one of the closest in the nation — he leads McGinty in an average of recent polling aggregated by RealClearPolitics — and when his opponent Katie McGinty came to speak at Penn in September, Egan helped organize a small protest and photo op outside the venue.
Like the Penn chapter of the College Republicans, Toomey has declined to endorse Trump, who , according to an RCP polling average.
“We actually haven’t been approached by the Trump campaign for any opportunities in Philadelphia,” Egan said. “From what I know, the campaign is focusing resources elsewhere and so it kind of makes sense that they wouldn’t have reached out to us.”
Earlier this semester, the Penn College Republicans chapter released the results of an internal poll, which found that only for president. In light of recent scandals and plummeting numbers, chapter Vice President and Wharton senior Grayson Sessa said if the Penn College Republicans were to conduct that poll again today, he believes Trump would fare even worse.
“I think his personal traits have crossed the line,” Sessa said. “He was my last choice in the very beginning, because I genuinely don’t think he’s a conservative.”
Sessa is considering writing in another candidate.
In addition to campaigning for Republicans like Toomey, and state congressional candidate Brian Fitzpatrick, the College Republicans have also been focused on bringing conservative speakers to Penn’s campus.
College Republicans Executive Director and College senior Matthew Shapiro said the club recently acquired a $20,000 grant from the Young America’s Foundation to bring former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove to campus next month. The foundation’s director had concerns about bringing the high-profile figure to Penn’s campus.
“They had a bit of hesitation because of at Penn when conservative speakers come,” said Shapiro, who is studying political science and history. “It’s likely that we’re going to have questions submitted to us [in advance], instead of having potential trouble with someone standing up and starting to shout. I think we’re just kind of hoping to some degree that the Penn student body is respectful of the speaker.”
In addition to the upcoming visit from Rove, the College Republicans also hosted an event yesterday with American diplomat and lawyer John Bolton. The talk was a held at the Penn Law School, and was co-hosted by the Penn Federalist Society.
Bolton, a former United States Ambassador to the United Nations and an outspoken conservative, discussed what he considers the foreign policy failures of the Obama Administration, calling the nuclear deal with Iran “the worst concession” in U.S. diplomatic history.
“I think Hillary Clinton will be Barack Obama’s third term,” said Bolton, who has endorsed Trump. “The risks of continuing to pursue the policies we have pursued these last eight years are extremely enormous.”
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