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Sunday, February 25, 2024
<p>Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney waves at the Republican National Convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on Thursday.</p>

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney waves at the Republican National Convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on Thursday.

Katy Melchiorre knows she’s outnumbered on UF’s campus.

She and other student Republicans are reminded when they set up their red banner by the Reitz Union or when they pass out information about the Republican Party’s platform. Sometimes, they’re met with anger, but usually they’re ignored. After all, she said, UF is known for being orange and — well — blue.

With election season nearing, she and other Republican student leaders are preparing for a political fight on and off campus. And with their groups fueled with excitement from the Republican National Convention, they said they’re preparing for an “uphill battle.”

“We’re definitely outnumbered by Democrats on this campus,” said Melchiorre, chair of UF’s College Republicans. “In 2008, it made it difficult, in my opinion, to really let our message sink in with students.”

Aside from the stereotype that college students are liberal, election data shows that on-campus voters largely leaned toward the Democratic Party in the past election cycle. In the 2008 presidential election, the Reitz Union saw 3,923 votes cast. Of that, 70.14 percent were for Barack Obama, and 27.84 percent were for John McCain.

Bryan Griffin, a 24-year-old UF law student and volunteer at the RNC, said he saw a few Gators at the convention but saw a steady flow of students from all over the U.S.

“Students realize this message is the message of the future,” he said. “And it’s going to be on us.”

As UF’s Democratic organizations gear up for the Democratic National Convention, Republican students are reveling in the political high of the RNC, especially after Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s speech Thursday.

“It was just a good time to be a Republican,” said Frank Moehrle, chair of Gators for Romney.

The 21-year-old UF political science senior said he feels the struggle to get student voters to pay attention to their message but said his party is growing stronger and stronger in Florida.

He said they now have more than 40 offices in the state, including the major cities, dedicated to getting voters to the polls for the Republican ticket.

Griffin said Alachua County is starting to see more and more Republican influence within its government. City Commissioner Todd Chase, a Republican, joined the all-Democrat dias in 2011. Republican Susan Baird was elected to the Alachua County Commission after the 2010 race.

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However, Moehrle said he’s aiming for a 40 percent Republican turnout on campus. He can’t turn the tide, but he said he can fight it. He said he’s had his Romney fliers torn up in his face enough times to realize that.

Regardless of what happens with the presidential election on campus, he said, his focus is on a larger prize.

“I don’t know if we’ll necessarily win on campus,” Moehrle said. “I feel confident that we will win the state in November.”

Contact Meredith Rutland at mrutland@alligator.org.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney waves at the Republican National Convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on Thursday.

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