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ISSUE 121 VOL 11 PUBLISHED 2/22/2008

Interim tracks elections

By Mara Fink
Associate Editor

Friday, February 22, 2008

Students from Professor Dan Hofrenning's interim political science class blogged their way through the election hysteria in New Hampshire and South Carolina last month to gain a taste of life on the presidential campaign trail.

The students left at the end of December and spent nearly a month following the presidential campaigns, with two weeks in New Hampshire and South Carolina.

A typical day for students consisted of class in the morning and working at their various campaign sites in the afternoon and evening to gain hands on experience.

The majority of the class was internship based, where students interned on a campaign of their choice. This provided for a very busy schedule and long hours for most students.

Class time was composed of various speakers, and students were required to write traditional papers. In addition, students kept a blog of their experiences.

"They didn't have much free time," Hofrenning said. "As a professor you have to gauge how much you want your students with their nose in the book and how much you want them looking around. I designed a course with 28 hour days," he said.

Some of the students, like Andrew Foxwell '08, who worked on John McCain's campaign, were surprised by the amount of work and time the campaigning really took.

"I didn't really know what to expect going in. I'd never really worked on a campaign too much, especially at this level. It was harder work than I thought. It was tiring," he said.

However, the work aspect did not take away from the excitement that Foxwell felt from being on the campaign trail.

Foxwell noted that interaction with the candidates was one of the biggest a highlights of the trip for him.

"I saw every candidate speak except John Edwards. Especially in New Hampshire, where it is a three-hour drive from top to bottom, the accessibility of the candidates is one of those things that's such a cool part of the presidential nominating process in this country," he said.

Anna Sperling '08, who worked on Gov. Bill Richardson's campaign in New Hampshire and for the South Carolina Democratic Party in South Carolina, also enjoyed the inside views of the candidates.

"I was surprised at how much contact and how close you could get to the candidates. It was cool to see it up close as opposed to what the news media want you to see and what they think is important," she said.

Not only did students get the opportunity to see the candidates up close, but they also got an inside perspective of the presidential campaign system in action.

Most of their work at the campaign sites was devoted to phone calling, signing people in at events, giving people stickers and other things of this nature.

Stephen Lindley '08, who worked for Richardson's campaign in New Hampshire and Ron Paul's in South Carolina, was most surprised by the chaos of the campaign office and the amount of volunteer effort that was wasted due to this disorganization.

"I couldn't believe how disorganized the campaigns were," Lindley said. "I kept wondering, 'Do you guys even know what you're doing?' I thought it would be a well-organized machine, and it definitely wasn't."

Foxwell also learned the importance of multi-tasking in running an effective campaign and acknowledged that the best man, or woman, does not always win.

"The candidates have to do so many things at the same time. It helps if you're a good person and if you're competent, but sometimes people win who shouldn't," he said.

With all of the knowledge gained from their experiences, many of the students became the source of information for media outlets such as CBS Nightly News and National Public Radio, or the "go to" people for the student view on the primary elections.

Foxwell said he had done approximately 30 press interviews.

One of the most interesting parts of the experience for many students was being with a group of people that despite such diverse political views did not feel the need to argue or 'convert' one another to join their cause.

Foxwell believed that this was because the students had a mutual respect for each other, because they were all working long hard days no matter who they were working for.

He said he hopes this civility would carry over to the political system in general.

"I think our generation is sick of the divisiveness& at St. Olaf we're spoiled because we have different views but we compromise. That doesn't happen enough in politics," he said.

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