Students react to Kerry’s Iowa caucus victory

Forget MTV — on Monday night from 8 p.m. on, many students had their televisions tuned in to CNN, anxiously anticipating the results of the Iowa caucuses. Student reactions varied from strong support of each of the frontrunners — Howard Dean ’71, Sen. John Kerry ’66, Rep. Richard Gephardt and Sen. John Edwards — to rooting against all four candidates, to utter indifference.

Kerry won the caucuses with 38 percent, followed by with Edwards with 32 percent, Dean with 18 percent and Gephardt with 11 percent.

Zach Jones ’05, head of the Yale campus Kerry coalition, said he was happy but not surprised about Kerry’s victory.

“If you had told me a month ago that Kerry would beat Dean by 20 percent, I would have been surprised, but in the past few days it has been clear that the momentum has been going with Kerry and Edwards,” he said. “This catapults Kerry to the front of the race and makes him not only the Democrat to beat, but the Democrat to beat Bush.”

Until the last few weeks of the campaign, Dean and Gephardt had been considered the frontrunners, but after his fourth place finish the Associated Press reported that Gephardt would be dropping out of the race for presidential candidacy. Dean, however, pledged to continue his campaign with the same vigor. Iowa is the first state in the nation to hold caucuses, giving the voters’ outcome in a small state a large bearing on the rest of the country. The next stop on the campaign trail will be New Hampshire, which will hold its primary next Tuesday.

Jones said the coalition will be outside of commons all day today offering information about Kerry to those who are interested.

During the caucuses, about 20 members of the Yale College Democrats gathered in the Branford College TV room to support their favorite candidates and debate with their peers. Throughout the night, the group engaged in arguments amongst themselves as well as with the television, filling the room with energy and excitement. Yale College Democrats President Nirupam Sinha ’05 said he was pleased the enthusiasm of the night.

“We had people in there who are very committed to all four of the guys who were viable tonight, and it was great to see everyone talking about their theories and trying to be experts,” he said. “Everyone in the room was surprised at the outcome. It confuses the process even more and makes the race even more tight and competitive, and I just hope that it keeps generating this much excitement on campus.”

Many of the viewers in the Branford TV room said they felt the main significance of the Iowa caucuses rested in the media support the winner usually gains.

“Iowa has more symbolic than actual importance in the election,” Basha Rubin ’07 said. “But it is crucial nonetheless because whoever wins Iowa sets the precedent and gets the media attention.”

The caucuses held a special place in the hearts of Iowa natives at Yale, who experienced them firsthand before coming to school here. Alexander Munns ’07 got to meet all four candidates when he was home over Christmas break.

“I think it’s wonderful that we get on the map once every four years, but it’s a shame that we get forgotten about in between,” he said. “Caucuses are a very neat process, though also very antiquated, and it is a great testament to democracy that even though we are a small state, everybody matters.”

Andrew Johnson ’06 said he noticed a big attitude difference between voters here and in Iowa, because in Iowa the politics are much more politically localized rather than media-oriented.

“I will talk to people at home who say they will not vote for a candidate because he did not visit Iowa. It’s much more personal there,” he said.

While some Republicans chose not to follow the caucuses at all, others took an interest in who would be the most favorable candidate to oppose Bush.

“I just wish there was a little more to say on the actual issues and a little less picking on Bush as a de facto issue,” Yale College Republicans member Frank Walsh ’04 said.

With the results in, the Yale Democrats will begin to discuss more decisively who they want to be their Democratic candidate in the presidential election. Former Yale Democrats president Alicia Washington ’05 said the Iowa caucuses will help people start to focus on differentiating the views of each candidate and clarify issues for people who are unsure whom to support. Personally, she said she is wavering between Clark and Kerry.

“Once we get to New Hampshire, then I’ll really have to make a decision,” she said.

Kostya Lantsman ’07 explains the way the caucus system works to fellow members of the Yale Democrats Monday while watching the Iowa caucuses.
Nathan Francis
Kostya Lantsman ’07 explains the way the caucus system works to fellow members of the Yale Democrats Monday while watching the Iowa caucuses.

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