Presidential hopefuls gain support

Students from the University have begun efforts to back up their chosen candidates.

Presidential hopefuls gain support

Megan Nicolai

As the presidential primary race heats up, University of Minnesota students are finding ways to support Republican candidates vying for the Oval Office.

Economics sophomore Rachel Jansen, who has a strong interest in politics, began working on former Minnesota Gov. Tim PawlentyâÄôs campaign in his Minneapolis office at the start of summer.

âÄúI really like the campaign,âÄù said Jansen, a member of College Republicans at the University of Minnesota. âÄúItâÄôs really fun and IâÄôve met some really smart people.âÄù

Jansen has spent the past weeks helping plan PawlentyâÄôs events in Iowa and calling the stateâÄôs voters, urging them to participate in the Ames, Iowa, straw poll in August and in the caucuses in 2012.

âÄúItâÄôs still early on in the election,âÄù Jansen said. âÄúHeâÄôs been gaining a lot of momentum, really getting his name out there.âÄù

The two candidates who made their names in Minnesota, Pawlenty and U.S. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, have spent much of their time trying to gain voter support in Iowa, said Kathryn Pearson, a political science professor at the University.

Iowa has the first caucuses in the nation, and therefore is a major geographical and reputational asset for presidential hopefuls, she said.

Pawlenty raised $4.2 million in the second fundraising quarter. In contrast, Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney raised more than $18 million. Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman netted $4.1 million in 10 days.

PawlentyâÄôs âÄúnumbers are disappointing for him and his team,âÄù Pearson said, and they show that he hasnâÄôt gained the traction he needs among both individual and large Republican Party donors.

Bachmann is expected to release her fundraising totals Friday. Pearson guessed her totals will surpass PawlentyâÄôs by a wide margin.

Bachmann set a U.S. House of Representatives record when she collected more than $13 million for her 2010 re-election campaign.

Pearson said despite his disappointing fundraising numbers, Pawlenty has a chance to recover. She compared his position to Arizona Sen. John McCainâÄôs status at this time in 2007. McCain went on to win the Republican nomination for the 2008 election.

Bachmann has âÄúturned a real corner in terms of being taken seriously,âÄù Pearson said.

Regardless, it may not matter âÄî Pearson said both Pawlenty and Bachmann âÄúwould have a tough timeâÄù carrying Minnesota in a general election.

Not all Minnesota students are concerned with supporting the homegrown presidential hopefuls.

Chris Huxtable, president of the UniversityâÄôs chapter of Young Americans for Liberty and a mechanical engineering senior, said many of the Republican candidates were unimpressive and had voting records that contradicted their platforms.

âÄúTheyâÄôre more of the same old, same old,âÄù Huxtable said.

YAL members plan to host events and set up tables around campus in the coming year to increase voter turnout for the 2012 election, he said.

While his group doesnâÄôt endorse a candidate as Republicans compete for their partyâÄôs nomination, Huxtable said U.S. Congressman Ron Paul lined up well with his YALâÄôs principles.

âÄúHeâÄôs a pretty spot-on representative of our ideals,âÄù Huxtable said. âÄúHeâÄôs a leader of the mainstream movement right now.âÄù

Huxtable said a few YAL members plan to drive down to Ames for the straw poll next month to support conservative candidates.

Though she enjoys the work, Jansen is unsure if sheâÄôll continue her position with the Pawlenty campaign when school starts.

âÄúItâÄôs a lot more work than I thought it would be,âÄù Jansen said.