From the ubiquitous campaign T-shirts that dot Locust Walk and the heated presidential debate viewings, it is obvious that the 2004 presidential election has become a visible part of everyday life at Penn.
However, underneath the large public campaign, an intricate web of intense campaigning has also taken hold. The strategy, known as a "campus canvass," was designed by College Republicans to discreetly ensure that Penn yields its maximum number of Republican votes without simultaneously encouraging Democrats to vote.
This exacting program is designed to first identify Republicans and potential George W. Bush supporters by going door-to-door in each college house. Once they have been identified, the College Republicans target these potential supporters through a variety of voter outreach tactics designed to ensure that they vote on Election Day.
"We literally knocked on every college house door, and even a few fraternity and sorority houses, to initially see who would potentially vote for Bush," College Republicans Outreach Director and College junior Mike Toto said. "Once we did that, we have been aggressively following up with each person via phone calls, e-mails and additional visits to help them register, give them absentee ballots and encourage them to support the president" on Nov. 2.
This aggressive mobilization strategy is modeled on the Republican National Committee's "Get Out the Vote" efforts, which utilize similar tactics of voter identification and personal encouragement in communities throughout the country.
In light of the tremendous success the program has encountered nationwide, and the tremendous increase in Republican voter registration that it has induced, College Republicans insist that the "campus canvass" will be equally effective.
"We really feel that we can be more effective if we can actually get in touch with people on a grassroots level," College Republicans President and College junior Eric Rechtschaffen said. "The best way to engage a Republican and get them to vote on this largely Democratic campus is to physically interact with them and let them know that they're not alone."
The campus canvass has used the less public strategy as a means of preventing the unintentional surge in Democratic votes, which could potentially result from more mainstream voter mobilization techniques like rallies and large-scale Election Day promotions.
"This is a pretty Democrat-heavy campus," Toto said. "Mainstream campaigns geared toward the masses would be more likely to help Republicans at college campuses in the middle of Pennsylvania, which attract a more Republican demographic."
"But here, if we do mainstream campaigning, for every Republican we get out to the polls, we'll probably also get six or seven Democrats, so individualized campaigning just makes more sense."
However, despite the complaints, the College Republicans' ranks have swelled, and it appears that these methods have indeed been effective. According to Rechtschaffen, based on the number of students on the College Republicans listserv, the number of Republican voters has more than doubled since last year. Nearly 1,200 likely Bush-voters have been identified.
"I wasn't involved in the College Republicans, but I met one of the active members walking in the hallway of my dorm, which really affected me," College freshman Dean Nacey said. "Talking to someone face to face is definitely a better way to get people involved than general flyering or tabling, because it creates a personable bond."
However, the College Republicans' grassroots voter outreach tactics have not been favorably welcomed by all. A number of less-involved Republicans have found the individualized visits to be intrusive and irritating.
"Although I'm a Republican, I don't really support President Bush, and I think it's really annoying that the College Republicans are always e-mailing and calling and sticking flyers under my door," said one College freshman, who did not want her name used. "I don't understand why they keep trying to reach me -- it's kind of stalker-ish."Comments powered by Disqus
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.