Drue Sokol, Photo Editor

On Tuesday night, rows of chairs and three large screen projectors were set up in Hirst Lounge, where students backing both parties gathered to watch the results of the Nov. 6 presidential election unfold at an event sponsored by UR’s Committee for Political Engagement (CPE). Cheers could be heard with almost every incoming projection, but by far the most boisterous celebration came at 11:15 p.m., with the first unofficial announcement that President Barack Obama would earn another four years in office.

It was at this time that NBC projected an Obama victory in Ohio, a swing state in which Governor Mitt Romney had been leading for much of the night. The win dealt a critical blow to the Romney campaign, rendering it virtually impossible for him to reach the 270 electoral votes needed for election.

Not counting Florida, where an official winner had not been announced as of Wednesday, Obama’s margin of victory was 303 electoral votes to Romney’s 206.

Meanwhile, in another election crucial to Rochester residents, Democratic incumbent Louise Slaughter edged out Republican candidate Maggie Brooks for the right to represent the 25th Congressional District, which includes all of Monroe County except Rush, Wheatland, Hamlin, Mendon and a small part of Clarkson. The start of 2013 will mark Slaughter’s 27th consecutive year representing New York State in the House of Representatives.

Although Slaughter has come out on top in 14 House of Representatives elections, most of the votes she had to win this time around were new ones. Due to recent redistricting, 2/3 of the voters in the 25th Congressional District are new to Slaughter’s constituency. That fact, combined with Democrats’ fear of losing more seats in the House, led to the election being paramount to the Democratic Party.

Several prominent Democrats visited Rochester to show their support for Slaughter, including President Bill Clinton and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Additionally, millions were spent by each candidate’s campaign on negative ads against the other, with Brooks attacking Slaughter’s Medicare policies and Slaughter firing back at Brooks for poor fiscal management and making several failed hires as County Executive.

Throughout the campaign, polls in the area showed Slaughter as a relatively consistent favorite. There was some apparent sway toward Brooks just before the election, but Slaughter ended up winning handily, taking 57 percent of the vote as opposed toBrooks’ 43 percent.

In her acceptance speech, speech, Congresswoman Slaughter emphasized her intent to fight for Social Security and Medicare, as well as to cap benefits and balance the district’s precarious budget. In the past, Slaughter has also been a strong proponent of education in the Rochester area, especially in terms of garnering research funding.

Several UR students who volunteered with Slaughter expressed their belief that Slaughter’s election will benefit UR.

“Slaughter has a history of fighting for higher education,” freshman Steven Torrisi, who volunteered on the CPE and with Slaughter’s campaign, said, adding that historically Slaughter has fought hard for research funding that benefits UR and other institutions.

Freshman Claire Webster, who also volunteered with Slaughter, said she thought the Congresswoman “ran a really good campaign.”

“I think a lot of voters identify with her,” Webster said. “She’s been in Congress so long that I think a lot of voters are confident in her, specifically in the UR community.”

Webster added that she did not think Brooks was as “focused on the younger generation,” which, had she been elected, would have meant that “we wouldn’t have someone fighting for us in Congress.”

Political Science Professor Gerald Gamm was featured on PBS’ election night coverage and weighed in on the heavily-contested election. He described it as “an exciting time for Rochester” given the redistricting. He speculated in response to the announcer’s prompt that the recent poll showing Slaughter ahead by 10 points was likely just “an artifact of polling” and due to a margin of error in the sampling given that the electorate stayed pretty stable throughout the race. Gamm also said he thought the most interesting thing about the race was the “nationalization” of it.

“They’re not just running as candidates, they’re running as parties,” he said.

Several professors highlighted the issues of health care, medical care and the economy as particularly important to college students.

Political Science Professor Maya Sen highlighted health care as a big issue pertaining to college students throughout the campaign and said that Romney’s declaration that he would repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on his first day in office, which allows young people to stay on their parents’ health care plans until age 26, is “fairly important for college students” given the poor labor market that many students will enter into.

She also highlighted the composition of the Supreme Court as another campaign issue important to college students, as Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg will almost certainly retire within the next four years. Romney’s election would have likely led to an appointment of a judge who is right of center, which Sen said would have impacted college students on a wide-variety of issues, including gay rights, women’s rights, reproductive rights and affirmative action.

“The Court is the most lasting impact a president can make,” Sen said.

Torrisi said that his concerns about the Supreme Court’s composition and Romney’s potential appointment choice were the primary motivation behind his voting, stating that the Supreme Court’s actions over the next four years will have more impact on the country than most other events.

“I think that Obama’s appointees will fight for the good of America,” he said.

Political Science Professor Peter Regenstreif said he saw employment and jobs as the number one issue applicable to college students.

“[The] economy was a number one issue,” he said. “It affected everyone in the country and it still does.”

Regenstreif added that he thinks economic issues motivated students to get involved with the campaign, but said he is unsure if there was enough information for students to make a decision about a candidate based on their economic policy proposals. He said he was unsure whether Romney’s support for cutting taxes for the wealthy would have appealed to many students.

Sophomore Michael Yurkovic agreed about the importance of the economy.

“Economic growth and reducing the deficit were issues that I felt deserved the most attention, which is why I felt the Romney/Ryan ticket was more desirable,” he said. “However, I feel neither candidate would have had much success in this area unless they unified Congress to work across the aisle to bring about some solutions.”

Political Science Professor Matthew Blackwell said that control of tuition prices has not been a huge part of the campaign, but is still an important issue for young people. He said that Romney did not give much of a position on higher education in general, but endorsed some cuts to research. He said that, to be fair, Obama did not offer much of a plan either.

“Obama has said that he wants to take the issue on, but it’s not clear that he wants the government to take it on,” Blackwell said.

Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Matthew Burdick said that neither candidate was clear throughout the campaign about how Pell Grant funding will function in “an era of spending cuts and limits.” Obama, however, has pledged support for Pell Grants at current maximum levels, while Romney did not, Burdick said. Both candidates supported sustaining lower student loan interest rates last summer, Obama more visibly, and Obama has not advocated cuts to research spending — Romney did by implication, through not “explicitly ruling such cuts off the table,” Burdick said.

Blackwell highlighted gay rights as a big divergence between young and old voters.

“I think gay marriage is something that young people support,” he said, noting that about 60 percent of the vote of people under 30 went to Obama.

Blackwell said that he thinks the youth vote was roughly the same in this election as in 2008.

“If there was an enthusiasm drop off, it was among everyone and was not specific to young people,” he said, speculating that some of the enthusiasm drop off could be due to the fact that in this election it was “generally more divisive in terms of people who support Obama” and that there “wasn’t the same urge to get out the vote.”

Nate Silver, author of the FiveThirtyEight blog acquired by The New York Times which received huge media attention for its uncannily accurate statistical projections of the election, seems to have emerged as the heir apparent to the business of future election predictions.

Blackwell said that he thinks “there will be a massive increase in the  study of polls during campaigns going forward” as a result of Silver and that most major media outlets will try to employ someone with skills comparable to Silver. He speculated that elections might become more predictable, with better predictions will be seen by more people. Such predictions might in turn affect turnout and excitement in future elections, as well as changing the need to make sure the electorate understands such statistical predictions, he said.

Blackwell also stressed that all prediction methods are only as good as the polls, which is good in presidential elections because many more polls are conducted in places where they matter — like swing states.

“All methods assume you have the polls right,” he said. “If you don’t have great polls, you won’t be able to make great predictions.”

Sophomore Duncan Graham said he thinks elections are “going to be boring in the future” as a result of Silver’s influence.

“I was relaxed last night because I have absolute faith in this man,” Graham said. “That killed a lot of excitement for me.”

Political Science Professor David Primo took a slightly different stance on issues, saying that he thinks many students miss the ones that will have long-term impacts, primarily the “coming crisis” with Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid, which Primo said are “all unsustainable in their current form” and contributing most onerously to the federal budget crisis. The longer that we wait to address this problem, the greater the burden on the college student demographic becomes, Primo said.

“If government does nothing, more of your income will go toward paying off this debt,” Primo said, explaining government debt as a “tax on the future.”

Primo said that if the younger generation is more vocal, change would be easier given that older people who tend to be more politically active tend to also want to protect these benefits.

“The younger generation needs to indicate that the issue is a priority,” he said.

Primo stressed that he views the student loan crisis as less of an issue given that students have a choice to some extent in how much they will pay for higher education.

“It’s not realistic to expect a big change in how the government funds education  — that’s not going to happen in the next two years,” he said.

However, Primo said it is not clear that it is the government’s responsibility to fix student loans, while these entitlement programs are clearly under the government’s jurisdiction.

Romney talked about Medicare to some extent throughout the campaign, proposing that seniors pay a lump sum for a plan, but neither candidate or party wanted to campaign on the issue, Primo said. Although the lump sum plan received some opposition, Obama proposed no structural improvements to the system, Primo said, adding that he sees “no evidence that Obama is going to take on Medicare in a serious way [in the next four years]” and that Obama should have put some plan for addressing this issue on the table.

“Although it’s in human nature to not look that far ahead, really this is the issue that is going to drive the taxes you pay and the society you live in,” Primo said.

Graham said that he thought the democrats offered a more reasonable solution to cutting the deficit, while the republicans primarily attacked it on an ideological basis. The democrats were more precise, for example by targeting the issue of regulation on a case-by-case basis rather than being entirely opposed to it, Graham said.

“The republicans took a more extreme and more blunt approach,” he said.

Graham said he is left pondering two issues at the conclusion of the election: the Electoral College and the continuation of the gridlock in Congress.

“I’m wondering about pushback against the Electoral College given that their vote was not reflected in the popular vote,” he said.

“I’m curious to see if the election will change it going forward.”

Buletti and Fleming are members of the class of 2013.



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