BYU students energized by alum Mitt Romney's presidential bid

By Mandy Morgan

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 6 2012 9:30 a.m. MST

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and wife Ann Romney vote in Belmont, Mass., Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Charles Dharapak, AP

PROVO — The air is warm with a crisp fall breeze. Half-golden, half-green leaves swirl down to the ground, and students rush in crowds from one building at Mitt Romney's alma mater to the next.

Some sit outside in groups and chat. Others lay in the sun. Not every conversation focuses on Tuesday's election, but when asked, every BYU student has something to say about it.

"We've been very positive this semester, we're all very passionate members and leaders for the cause for Mitt Romney," Emily Kinard said of the BYU College Republicans. "He can make the changes needed. Personally I think it's so important to be involved and care about this."

The Universe, BYU's student newspaper, has been doing a series about Romney's younger years for the past few weeks, with a lot of focus on his BYU years, Kinard said.

"A lot of students think it would be cool for a Mormon and BYU alum to be in office, but I don't know if it will sway votes," she said.

The candidacy of a BYU grad was omnipresent Monday, with fliers everywhere advertising an election night party, university newsstands full of papers with stories outlining much of Romney's life and exit poll stations just waiting for voters to show up Tuesday at the Spencer W. Kimball Tower to cast their ballots — and fill out surveys about who they voted for and why afterwards.

"I think there is increased excitement among students," said Quin Monson, director of the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy (CSED) in BYU's political science department. "I don't think the proportion of supporters is higher than it would normally be for any Republican candidate … but there is a level of excitement for him that exceeds those normally in candidacy."

Though students typically don't have the money to donate to campaigns, they do have time, energy and talents to give. Monson is connected to numerous former students who are actively involved with Romney's campaign, which is unusual, he said.

Students with differing levels of political involvement are scattered across the campus, with some diving in and others sitting back and moving their lives around the politics. There have been two specific types of Mitt Romney supporters that David Romney, a Middle East studies/Arabic major, has noticed.

"There are a lot of people who are really excited about Romney," said David Romney, a distant cousin to Mitt and president of the BYU Political Affairs Society. "There are those who want to get involved and help because of (Romney) as a candidate, where they previously wouldn't have."

For those students in this category, many became interested in Romney's political position due to like religious views, he said.

"There were also people with the opposite reaction; this has galvanized them to be politically involved, they see he has kind of become a face of Mormonism … you have these students who say 'he's not the face of my Mormonism,’ ” David Romney said. "There are a lot of people with that point of view, people wanting to become politically involved to show their side of things."

For Ben Ader, co-president of the BYU College Democrats, the experience of a Democrat in a predominantly Republican-Mormon community is an interesting but worthwhile one.

"Really it's not as bad as most people think. When people find out I am involved with the College Democrats, they are mostly curious, they want to know my point of view," Ader said.

When it comes to the political science department at the university, the professors are "rather friendly to both ideals; they like thought and discussion of both," he said.

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