On Friday, November 30, almost 50 Xavier students will board a bus at 6:00 a.m. for a ten-hour ride to Des Moines, Iowa. Not exactly the center of the college student party scene, but different parties are at play here. In Des Moines, these students will experience firsthand the nation’s first and oldest political caucus.
Students Briana Hansen of Indianapolis and Kevin Hoggatt of Wilmington, OH will blog about their experience at www.hansoggatt.blogspot.com/ with a link on Xavier’s blog, www.xavieruniverse.blogspot.com. Maggie Nafziger, executive director of the Hamilton County Republican Party, and Jeff Cramerding, executive director of the Cincinnati Charter Committee will join the group. In addition, journalist Joe Wessels will join the group and blog at http://www.cincy.com.
Every four years, presidential candidates visit Iowa, where citizens have gathered in the caucus format since the early 1800s. On caucus night (January 3, 2008), Iowans gather by party preference in designated public buildings or often private homes to elect delegates to the 99 county conventions. Presidential preference selection on the Republican side is done with a straw vote of those attending. Democratic caucus-goers express their presidential preference through a show of hands, a sign-in sheet or by dividing themselves into groups according to candidates.
The Xavier trip was a result of the course Presidential Campaigns 1960-2008, team taught by John Fairfield, Ph.D., history, Gene Beaupré, Ph.D., political science, and Brendon Cull, former spokesperson for the Kerry/Edwards Ohio Presidential campaign. The course explores the history and strategies used in modern presidential campaigns. Moving beyond theory, it puts the 2008 presidential primary into perspective.
“The campaign occurring this fall will be the first time in more than 50 years that neither national party will have an incumbent president or vice president as a candidate. It’s the most diverse field of contenders this country has seen in modern times,” says Beaupré.
The students will meet with their chosen campaigns of both parties to join in strategizing. Since Congress is not in session, Iowa will be teeming with staffers and aides to those candidates currently in Congress. Students will attend the Democratic debate Saturday in Des Moines. Most students will work until early afternoon Sunday, before boarding the bus to return home. Most of the participants are in Xavier’s Philosophy, Politics & the Public (PPP) Honors program, but a number of politically-active students are traveling, as well. Each student paid $50 to join in this hallmark occasion and is responsible for meals. Xavier is providing transportation and lodging.
PPP student David Ben of Lockport, NY says he is “excited to have the opportunity to volunteer in such a battleground state. We have the opportunity to see the work of these finely-tuned organizations at a critical time in the process and act as a small piece that will fit into the larger narrative of the campaign.”