Students join fray to back candidates

by Geoffrey Ziezulewicz

Extending her plea through a bullhorn, Megan Maley tried to squeeze every potential Democratic primary voter out of the University of Wisconsin-Madison to the polls. Maley, a graduate student at the university, had been out in the crisp Wisconsin air since 5 a.m.

“If you haven’t voted yet,” she said, “there are still two hours to vote. Polls are open until 8 (p.m.)”

Armed with hand-warming chemical packets, “Dean for America” signs and five cell phones, Maley said she considered herself to be with former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean until the end.

“I live in Madison, Wisconsin,” she said. “I feel like everyone I know is a Dean supporter.”

Scores of Madison students lined the central roads of the campus yesterday in support of their preferred presidential nominees.

An air of solidarity permeated the camps of student supporters for Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Dean, the two perceived front-runners in the Wisconsin primary. While volunteers hoped for victory, many were resolute in their determination to support whoever eventually grabs the Democratic Party’s presidential nod.

“I don’t know if I will have the same enthusiasm, but I’ll work for whoever wins,” Maley said. “But there is no one I believe in as much as Howard Dean.”

Not all students were in support of Dean.

“Dean is hard to stomach,” said Adam Diederich, a University of Wisconsin-Madison sophomore and Wesley Clark-turned-Kerry volunteer.

Diederich and his fellow volunteer Matt Bertram said they chose to work for Kerry because Clark endorsed him and they like Kerry’s election potential.

“It is pretty evident he is going to win, but not by how much,” Diederich said.

He said there was no sense of animosity between student supporters of different primary nominees, and that any other volunteers would be welcomed. Their goal is the same, he said.

“If they’re not overly critical and if they’re cool, that’s fine,” he said as he huddled inside the hood of his sweatshirt. “We forget the larger picture. It depends on our goal as Democrats. Is it Dean for president, or George W. Bush not for president? Any Democratic vote is a vote against Bush.”

Crossing Langdon Street and entering Madison’s Memorial Union, signs guided primary voters upstairs to the polling station.

While students ate in the union’s food court or danced along to “Dance Dance Revolution” in the arcade, first-year student Amanda Bracco fulfilled her small task for Kerry’s campaign.

“Did you get a chance to vote? Who did you vote for?” she tactfully asked exiting voters, making innocuous marks on her yellow notepad.

At times besieged by the number of voters exiting the polls, Bracco said she is convinced there is more support for Kerry in Madison than people think.

“There are a lot of people who are silently Kerry people,” she said. “We just don’t have as many signs.”

Although she and Kerry share a New England origin, Bracco said she was working for Kerry because of his election potential.

Bracco said she carried no hard feelings toward the Dean volunteer who was down the hall.

“We just need to get a Democrat in office,” Bracco said. “But right now, it’s about picking the best Democrat for the job.”

Diederich and Bertram said they both adhered to the ideology that seems to pervade the circles of Democratic primary candidates.

“People say this a lot, but it’s true,” Diederich said. “This is ‘anybody but Bush.’ “