Although some Yale liberals are already organizing around one or two consensus candidates, when it comes to campus conservatives, a much different — and more fractured — story is playing out.
Campus conservatives appear to be in more disagreement than liberals as to who they should support in the 2008 race, if anyone at all at this early stage. While the consensus among Republicans who have made up their minds can be described as decidedly pro-Rudolph Giuliani, many said this weekend that they are still waiting for a genuine ideological conservative to emerge.
“There’s no candidate that’s stepping out,” Republican Adam Hirst ’10 said. “I think [student Republicans] are kind of waiting for one candidate to kind of do something to separate himself.”
Of the dozen conservatives interviewed, many noted that all the candidates are imperfect in some way: Giuliani, some conservatives said, is socially liberal-leaning and morally suspect by some accounts; former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney might have raised the most cash in the first cycle, but so far, he has not exhibited the charisma needed to excite students; and Arizona Sen. John McCain is no longer seen to be the maverick he once had been.
But Hirst, like many conservative Yalies, said Giuliani is generating the most enthusiasm. His candidacy has drawn enough interest to inspire the forthcoming formation of a pro-Giuliani group, which will be organizing next semester. And at this point, the majority of the Yale College Republicans board said they would support the former New York City mayor if they had to choose, though they will probably not endorse a candidate in the primary.
“The way he handled Sept. 11 is more or less the way I’d want a president handing those rough issues,” Hirst said. “I don’t really like that he’s pro-choice, but at the same time I’m kind of happy that’s not the issue he’s running on as a Republican.”
The Yalies’ sentiments are in line with national polls, which show Giuliani leading McCain by about 13 points.
Michael Fernandez ’07, who is also a member of the Yale College Republicans, said he is inclined to support Giuliani because of his performance as mayor of New York City, his “strong” executive record and — in contrast to his socially liberal views — his statements that he would nominate traditionally conservative justices to the Supreme Court.
“A lot of the other board members, from what I’ve gathered, are also inclined to support Giuliani,” Fernandez said. “There are some McCain supporters. I only knew of one of our members who was supporting Romney, but he switched out. Romney doesn’t seem to have a lot of support.”
President of the Yale Law School Republicans Stephen Vaden LAW ’08 helped revive the group’s presence at the law school, but he said that students on campus have not rallied around any single candidate because “there’s not a consensus candidate” for whom anyone is truly willing to drop everything and vote. He said he is personally unconvinced by what he called Romney’s disingenuous conservatism, Giuliani’s moral shortcomings and McCain’s subpar performance lately.
Vaden feels that Democrats are similarly unsatisfied, saying that although Illinois Sen. Barack Obama is generating hype, he is more or less the “poster boy” of white, educated liberals. Vaden added that Obama is “like an individual who you are having a lusty affair with — you put all your hopes and dreams into that person, but one wonders when the disappointment will manifest itself.”
“I think that really both sides are trying to weigh their options and hold out hope that in six to eight months, something else manifests itself,” Vaden said.
Democrats at Yale have not seen any consensus as to who to support either, but this past weekend, a rally was held for Obama that drew more than 50 students willing to volunteer for his campaign.
Former President of the Yale College Republicans Alex Yergin ’07 attributed the lack of any well-attended conservative rallies to the nature of the University rather than the unusual nature of the 2008 presidential race.
“There are obviously more Democrats on campus than Republicans, so it would make sense that the Democrats would have rallies,” he said. “But I’m confident that by next year, there will be plenty of Republican activism on this campus as well.”
Then again, there is always the fact that the election is still nearly 600 days away.
“I think it’s politics for entertainment’s sake at this point,” Kevin Alexander ’07 said. “Most Republicans tend to vote for a Republican who is likely to win, and it’s increasingly difficult to judge that when you’re trying to make a call two years in advance.”