The Iowa caucuses are approaching on Feb. 1, and this year in particular, college students could have a big impact on the results. In both 2012 and 2008, the Iowa caucuses were held on Jan. 3, when most students were at home for the holidays. This year, they will occur while school is actually in session.
“Iowa students have effectively been disenfranchised from voting in the caucuses for nearly the past 20 years,” explained Alexander Staudt, a University of Iowa student. “They either leave the state for winter break and cannot vote when the caucuses were held in January, or they are not home during the school year when their home state has their caucus.”
There is one candidate hoping to take advantage of the increased student turnout: Kentucky Senator Rand Paul.
Paul’s campaign has set a goal of recruiting 10,000 Iowa college students to caucus for the senator, which if reached, would most likely win him the Republican caucus.
For comparison’s sake, a record 30,000 young voters (under 30) turned out to support Obama in the 2008 Iowa caucuses, according to data from the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement. In 2012, Ron Paul had the largest youth turnout in Iowa with approximately 8,800 young voters caucusing for him.
Despite Rand’s poor standing so far in the national polls, the senator has arguably made the biggest effort to recruit support from college students, establishing 400 Students for Rand chapters on campuses across the United States.
Staudt, who serves as the president of a Students for Rand chapter at the University of Iowa, said his group is hoping to spread the word of liberty by talking to students about Paul’s platform.
“Many students across the nation are eager to support a candidate that is not a career politician like the candidates on the left, and many on the right, as well as a candidate who has a record of talking the talk, and walking the walk,” he said.
Paul pushes a similar message of limited government that helped his father win the youth vote in 2012. An ad released by Students for Rand on Monday called him “the only true political independent” with a “liberty-centered vision,” and the only candidate that isn’t “blindly leading us to world war.”
“Sen. Paul’s stances on criminal justice reform, privacy, and protecting the entire Bill of Rights set him a part from every other candidate, both Republican and Democrat,” said a press release from Students for Rand National Youth Director Cliff Maloney. “Millennials want someone real, someone authentic. That’s what Dr. Paul brings to the table, and I am confident his message will resonate on college campuses in Iowa and nationwide.”