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With the Republican nomination battle heating up, students share their thoughts on the Republican primaries and candidates.

Credit: Quan Nguyen

Even at 76, Ron Paul is still hip with the kids.

Young Republicans overwhelmingly supported Paul in the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary, according to analyses by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement.

Paul received 48 percent of the vote among 17 to 29 year olds in Iowa and 46 percent in New Hampshire.

Young voters “threw such a high proportion of their votes to Ron Paul that he finished close” to first in Iowa, CIRCLE Director Peter Levine said in a statement.

In New Hampshire, “although young voters did not turn out at a particularly high rate this year, they did have an impact by concentrating their votes” for Paul, aiding him in his second-place finish, Levine said.

Paul’s “message about getting out of war and not being in conflicts we don’t need to be in” resonates with many young people, said Wharton junior and College Republicans president Laura Brown, a Daily Pennsylvanian staff member.

At the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, “he always has hundreds of students who are really excited about him,” Brown added.

But despite Paul’s remarkable performance in the first two states, there remain doubts about his broader appeal.

“As for his viability as a national candidate, I don’t think the general electorate would elect [him],” Brown said.

Indeed, among young Republicans and independents nationwide who were likely to vote in their states’ primaries or caucuses, Paul trailed behind Mitt Romney by seven percentage points, according to a poll released last month by Harvard University.

“Romney has that potential [to get student support] if he can start to focus in on young people in the general election,” Brown said.

Jon Huntsman Jr. ­— a 1987 College graduate — has also won the support of many young Republicans.

Robert Johnson, chair of the New Hampshire College Republican Federation, called Huntsman “the only candidate who speaks to our generation.”

Before the New Hampshire primary, The New Hampshire — the student newspaper of the state’s flagship public university, the University of New Hampshire — endorsed Huntsman, writing that he would “be best for our generation — a generation largely unrepresented by the political pundits and newspaper editorial boards that have aired their opinions thus far.”

Here at Penn, Brown said Huntsman is the person who most excites young Republicans on campus. “He’s an alum, an incredibly intelligent individual,” she said. “His common sense really speaks to the young people.”

Despite these candidates’ youth appeal, even centrist Republicans may find it difficult to gain support at urban campuses such as Penn and Drexel University, where students tend to hold liberal views.

“I can’t really see any of [the Republicans] being competent presidents of the United States,” Engineering sophomore Israel Geselowitz said, dismissing “even the more moderate candidates, such as Romney and Huntsman.”

“Ron Paul has somehow garnered this image as a libertarian hero. He’s just stronger in his anti-government views,” said Geselowitz, who plans to vote Democrat. “I’m always surprised by how popular he is among young people.”

The 2008 presidential election saw the most young Americans voting since the 1972 election, when the voting age was lowered to 18, according to data from the U.S. Census.

A Harvard poll from the fall of 2007 had found that 61 percent of young people said they would “definitely” be voting in the 2008 election. That figure dropped to 50 percent last month in advance of the 2012 election, indicating decreased enthusiasm for the political process.

President Barack Obama’s approval rating among young Americans has slipped from 55 percent in February 2011 to 46 percent in December. Still, they favored him over a generic Republican candidate by six percentage points, according to the Harvard poll.

“They’re all clowns,” Drexel junior Issa Haddad said of the Republican field. He still plans to vote for Obama, but only “reluctantly.”

Obama’s “pretty much doing the same thing Bush did,” Haddad said, referring to their similarities in policy decisions.

Perhaps a telling sign, the Harvard poll found that 36 percent of young Americans predict that Obama will lose his re-election campaign. Only 30 percent believe he will win.


New Hampshire behind them, candidates look to South Carolina
In New Hampshire, an uncertain fight for second place

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