As the election draws near, student political groups on campus are taking different measures to more effectively use their resources.
Both Republican and Democratic groups on campus have created organizations to focus specifically on campaigning for their respective nominated candidates. Duke College Republicans works closely with North Carolina Young Americans for Romney, a branch of the Mitt Romney presidential campaign, to encourage more students to vote Republican, and Duke Democrats launched Duke Students for Obama as a special project for the election season.
“DCR and NCYAFR are as independent from one another as the Romney campaign and the Republican Party,” said junior Taylor Imperiale, board member on both DCR and NCYAFR. “It’s just a technicality—having a separate group dedicated solely to the proposition of getting Mitt Romney elected gives us a direct line to the state and national campaign that we would not otherwise have solely under the Duke College Republicans label.”
DCR could not explicitly support Romney before he was officially nominated at the convention, but having NCYAFR as a separate entity allowed students to start the campaigning early, Imperiale said. NCYAFR also makes room for supporters of all political affiliations to participate in the campaigning process.
“Duke Students for Romney is not just for college Republicans but for independents and Romney-supporting Democrats as well,” he said. “Having a separate group allows these students to become involved in supporting Gov. Romney’s campaign, even if they don’t want to identify with the Republican Party as a whole.”
President of NCYAFR Daniel Strunk, a junior, added that there is no disunity between the two groups, which have worked closely together throughout the year.
NCYAFR cannot receive university funding because candidate-specific organizations are considered “unsustainable” by the University, but being so closely tied with DCR gives the organization the support it needs to operate on campus. NCYAFR relies mostly on manpower and the support of the local GOP office to encourage students to vote for Romney, said senior Becca Jeffries, head of communications of NCYAFR.
The group conducts activities such as tabling on the Bryan Center Plaza, hosting watch parties and conducting phone banks to rally support, Jeffries said.
Strunk addded that the organization works very closely with Duke College Republicans, but that operating separately allows for more flexibility for tabling and booking rooms. When the two groups collaborate, however, DCR usually covers the expenses.
Co-president of Duke Democrats David Winegar, a sophomore, said that this Spring Duke did not approve the chartering of a new organization specifically dedicated to re-electing President Barack Obama, because it was would have been a temporary organization.
This Fall, the group launched Duke Students for Obama to focus their efforts on the election. The strategy and leadership is determined by the Duke Democrats executive board, but it receives no funding from the Democratic Party or the Obama campaign, Winegar wrote in an email Tuesday.
Although Duke Democrats does not have an official link to Obama for America, the group has learned from working with a more experienced local field organizer for the national organization.
“It’s been great working with them—we’re able to get a lot of support, training and knowledge, as well as bringing in many students who want to work for the Obama campaign,” Winegar said.
He added that because voter registration is not partisan, the collaborative voter registration actions of OFA and Duke Democrats should not alienate any of the President’s supporters. As the election gets closer, the two organizations will host events that are focused on campaigning for Obama as well as the other Democratic candidates on the ballot.