Race for the Presidency

Race for the Presidency

For students, New Hampshire primary was a view into presidential politicking.

The New Hampshire primary Jan. 10 wasn't just the first primary contest for the 2012 Republican nomination.

It was a statewide classroom, a field trip to observe all the glad-handing and back slapping that helps choose a contender for president.

At least that's how it was for a handful of Rowan students.

From Jan. 6-11 a half dozen students from a cross section of majors travelled to the Granite State with two advisors, Political Science Professor Bruce Caswell and Assistant Provost James Gaymon, to hear speeches and debates and meet voters and candidates. The students were interviewed by local, national and international media covering the primary and blogged about their experience.

Professor Caswell said the New Hampshire primary trip, a first for Rowan students, made the elective process far more real than classroom studies alone ever could and said it's a trip he's like to repeat in 2016.

He and Gaymon said the New Jersey primary, which isn't held until June, is often too late in the process to matter because, by then, a candidate has often been unofficially chosen. Candidates are officially chosen at the party conventions in late August.

"As a rule, candidates don't come to New Jersey because we have such a late primary," said Gaymon. "We wanted to take students to New Hampshire to witness an active primary state."

"The last time New Jersey's primary was relevant was 1988," Dr. Caswell said. "Going to New Hampshire, seeing the process in action, was very different from reading about it in a book or hearing a professor lecture about it. And it was far different from waiting for the N.J. primary."

While in N.H. senior Vinny Manco of Jackson met candidates Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Jon Huntsman. (Romney won the primary with 39% of the vote, followed by Rep. Ron Paul and Huntsman, a former Utah governor.)

"It was so much different from just watching it on TV," said Manco, an economics major who is president of the Rowan Republican Club, a student group, and executive director of the New Jersey College Republicans. "I wasn't receptive to Romney before the primary but he seemed like a nice, personable guy who seemed to enjoy meeting people."

Sophomore political science major Bilal Rice, 20, of Plainfield, said he leans Democratic but was taken with Paul's foreign policy position – that the U.S. should have a far smaller presence in other countries and should focus instead on security issues at home.

"I think that makes sense," Rice said.

Freshman management major Kevin Sperling, 18, of South Brunswick, didn't care for most of the field other than former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, but didn't see his candidacy gaining traction.

"I don't think he has a chance," said Sperling, who leans Republican and is interning with Governor Chris Christie's office this summer.

(Though he placed fourth in N.H. with just nine percent of the votes, Gingrich, of Georgia, won the South Carolina primary Jan. 21).

Sophomore Cindelle Harris, 19, of Plainfield, a communication/Africana studies double major, said the trip was educational, to be sure, but did not convince her to back any of the candidates.

Harris, who's looking forward to casting her first vote for President in November, said she's an independent thinker who already likes the president we've got.

Said Harris, "I think I'll vote for Obama."