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Wisconsin presidential primary set for Feb. 19

February 14, 2008

When the Wisconsin primary comes around next Tuesday, the Republican side may be cut and dried. But the Democratic side will be a showdown, and Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois message of change is what resonates with younger voters, and may be the deciding factor.

Republican front-runner Sen. John McCain of Arizona owns a nearly insurmountable lead of 812 delegates to former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee’s 217. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney withdrew from the race after a disappointing Super Tuesday, when he gained only 201 delegates.

“If this were only about me, I’d go on. But it’s never been only about me. I entered this race because I love America, and because I love America. In this time of war, I feel I have to now stand aside for our party and for our country,” Romney said in a Feb. 7 speech.

The Republicans must win 1,191 delegates to earn the nomination, whereas the democrats race to 2,025. McCain has a 595-delegate lead on Huckabee, but Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York and Obama are nearly tied, with Obama having a slight edge after sweeping last week’s “Potomac Primaries.”

Candidates have spent millions of dollars and countless hours attempting to gain the youth vote and no candidate has been more successful than Obama.

All of the candidates have official Facebook groups where people can “support” their particular candidate. Ron Paul has the most Facebook supporters for Republicans, recording nearly twice as many as McCain, even though Paul has only won 16 delegates.

But it is Obama whose impact is really being felt on the social networking site. All of the supporters of McCain, Romney, Huckabee, Paul and Clinton added together (301,395) don’t even come close to Obama’s 385,104 supporters.

“I really appreciate Obama’s ability to lead and look for alternative solutions to problems,” senior Christine Selby said. “I also think he is an example of what good leadership should look like in a lot of ways in his ground up efforts. I also think he is extremely intelligent.”

Obama’s official Web site notes the impact his “Yes We Can” message about change has had on students in particular.

“Senator Obama’s candidacy for President has inspired millions of young Americans to believe in their power to make America great again,” reads the intro on the Students for Obama Web page.

Acting Political Science Chair Davida Alperin is not a student, but sees the immense student support for Obama.

“I think he’s really clear about wanting not just policies to be different but our approach to politics to be different,” Alperin said. “Obama will bring out people who wouldn’t otherwise vote.”

Obama owns a 1,202-1,184 delegate lead over Clinton after sweeping the three Feb. 12 primaries in Washington D.C., Virginia and Maryland, setting up a Feb. 19 showdown.

“Because Wisconsin is one of the last states to vote, we will be making a large impact on who becomes the Democratic candidate,” senior Kim Betzold said.

The timing of the primary is intriguing seeing that it lies between Super Tuesday and the primaries in important states like Ohio and Texas.

“I think it’s [democratic nomination] still in play,” Alperin said. “Four years ago Wisconsin and Minnesota didn’t have much say.”

This Tuesday’s Hawaii caucuses and the primaries in Wisconsin and Washington are set to be the next battlegrounds between the two potential Democratic nominees. The competition between Clinton’s focus on working-class voters and Obama’s attention to young voters will be an interesting subplot to follow as the Wisconsin primary unfolds.

“If we would only get out there to vote we can make a huge difference,” junior Joy Stanton said in an e-mail interview. “It’s all about using our voice through the power of the vote. Voting matters! This is our future we are talking about.”

Stanton represents the excitement generated by the Obama campaign. She said she would probably vote for a Republican, or Obama. Depending on how well excitement translates into votes, she may have to make that decision come November.