HARTFORD — Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney visited Connecticut today in anticipation of the state’s April 24 primary.
After fellow Republican Rick Santorum’s exit from the race on Monday, Romney traveled to the state capital having virtually captured the GOP nomination. At a small printing business in Hartford Wednesday afternoon, the former Massachusetts governor delivered a speech to a 100-person audience before holding a private gathering with a group of Connecticut Republican leaders and female business owners.
In his three-minute stump speech at the press conference, Romney listed many failures of the Obama administration that he planned to correct as president.
“If you want a big welfare state that writes lots of checks to citizens, then you can vote for the other guy,” Romney said. “If you want opportunity with rising incomes and more jobs and a brighter future for you and your kids, vote for me and let’s take back the country.”
Though members of the Yale College Democrats traveled to Hartford to protest the event, the Yale College Republicans did not attend. Still, the two co-presidents of the Yale College Republicans said they are confident that Romney will win the November election, even while other campus Republican and Democratic leaders expressed their doubts.
Michael Knowles ’12, co-president of the Yale College Republicans, said Romney’s reputation for being a moderate candidate will be an asset when he needs to attract independent voters to win in November.
“I don’t think Obama’s campaign will be able to capture the enthusiasm of ’08 in this campaign — not when he has a failed record,” Knowles said. “I think this election will be a referendum on President Obama and his handling of the economy.”
But the Dems, who sent five members to Hartford on Wednesday to protest Romney’s visit, said the Yale College Republicans’ absence was telling.
“I think the fact that no Yale Republicans were in attendance is indicative of Mitt Romney’s difficulty connecting with young voters,” said Josh Rubin ’14, elections coordinator for the Dems.
Rubin said this lack of enthusiasm for Romney stems from his failure to offer concrete solutions that will positively impact the younger generation. Given the “palpable” excitement for Obama and Romney’s lack of charisma, Obama will be able to win another presidency, Rubin predicted.
Unlike Knowles and Yale College Republican co-president Cyprien Sarteau ’12, Harry Graver ’14, vice president of the William F. Buckley Program, said he is not optimistic about Romney’s chances. He said Romney’s uninspiring personality will be an insurmountable weakness, adding that the apathy many feel for him will likely result in overall Republican inactivity on campus.
“Like many conservatives, I had qualms with his candidacy — a largely moderate record, a serious problem with consistency and a seeming overall lack of philosophical or ethical principle,” Graver, also a staff columnist for the News, said. “With that said, I plan on voting for Romney and supporting him the best I can.”
But Knowles said Romney’s appeal as an alternative to Obama will manifest itself on campus more extensively this election cycle compared to past years. Up until recently, he said, the Yale College Republicans were a relatively dormant group. But in fall of 2010, Knowles and Max Eden ’11 founded Students for Mitch Daniels, an organization aimed at lobbying the Indiana governor to run for President. Knowles said the “freshness” of this organization attracted Republicans on campus and led to a revival of the Yale College Republican group.
About 40 people participate actively in the Yale College Republicans, according to Sarteau. Sarteau said that though the group will likely do little field organizing in Connecticut, a solidly blue state, they will hold phone-a-thons for Romney and throw their support behind local Republican candidates, such as the eventual Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Joe Lieberman ’64 LAW ’67. Knowles added that he has encouraged members of the College Republicans to write for campus publications to spread their message.
“I think you will only see Republicans’ presence grow on campus this election,” Sarteau said.
Still, a March poll conducted by the News did not show campus Republicans growing in numbers. In the poll, 10 percent of registered voters on campus identified as Republicans, compared with 55 percent who identified as Democrats and 24 percent as Independents. In October 2008, the News reported that 12 percent of registered voters on campus planned to vote for McCain.
Romney traveled to Warwick, R.I., today after his Hartford event.
Correction: April 12
An earlier version of this article incorrectly attributed a statement from Josh Rubin ’14, elections coordinator for the Yale College Democrats, to Zak Newman ’13, president of the Dems.