Students head to New Hampshire for presidential primary

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Six Rowan University students are at the center of the American political universe this week as they attend the New Hampshire Primary.

Six Rowan University students are at the center of the American political universe this week as they attend the New Hampshire Primary.

Students are spending Jan. 6-11 in New Hampshire as they witness firsthand the pivotal Republican presidential primary on Jan. 10. They're hopeful to see a close finish similar to the Jan. 3 Iowa Caucus, when Mitt Romney topped Rick Santorum by a scant eight votes.

The primary is a key presidential contest for Republican candidates vying to land the GOP nomination to oppose President Barrack Obama in November's general election.

"This is a very cool opportunity for us," says Vinny Manco, president of Rowan's Republican Club, a student organization. Active in politics in Ocean and Gloucester counties and at the state level, Manco also is executive director of the New Jersey College Republicans.

"We're looking forward to watching the whole process," adds Manco. "And I'm hoping to meet some of the candidates, see them speak, and see their campaigns in action."

The students are attending rallies and debates and plan to visit polling sites, according to James Gaymon, assistant provost for diversity, recruiting and retention initiatives. Gaymon and Political Science Professor Bruce Caswell, an expert in elections and political participation, will be joining the students.

Students plan on attending events ranging from a spaghetti dinner for Romney to a town hall meeting hosted by Ron Paul to a GOP reception for Newt Gingrich to a Chamber of Commerce dinner for Jon Huntsman.

"Our primary purpose is to study the presidential nominating process," says Gaymon. "It's a chance for our students to become completely engaged in the national process."

That's thrilling, Manco and Caswell agree.

"I love that, during winter break, we'll get to experience the nation's first primary firsthand with other politically-minded people," Manco says.

Caswell has attended the Iowa caucus and other primaries for years, but this trip to the New Hampshire Primary is his first.

"I'm excited for them-and for myself," Caswell says. "Our students will get to see what the nominating process is like on the ground. It's different on the ground than it is on TV."

During the trip, students are scheduled to meet with William Crotty, a Northeastern University political scientist who is an expert on the presidential nomination process, according to Caswell.

An independent, student Cindelle Harris says she's excited about watching the political process-and the events surrounding the primary.

"I want to see the candidates and the campaigns, but I'm also interested in the ‘Occupy' movement," says Harris.

Students are blogging about their experiences at: rowan.edu/polysciblogs.

Students attending the New Hampshire Primary, with their hometowns and majors, include: Cindelle Harris of Plainfield (sophomore, Communication Studies and Africana Studies); Vinny Manco of Jackson in Ocean County (senior, economics); Samantha Marandino of Vineland (senior, history and political science with a concentration in international studies); Harold Reighn of Dorothy (junior, political science); Bilal Rice of Plainfield (sophomore, political science); Kevin Sperling of Dayton (freshman, management and entrepreneurship).

The trip is being sponsored by the Political Science Club, the Political Science & Economics Department and by the dean's office in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences.

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