By Scott Tibbs, November 14, 2008
November 4 may have represented a paradigm shift in county elections in Monroe County. The student vote increased dramatically over 2004, as students excited about Barack Obama flocked to the polls. This was devastating for Monroe County Republicans, who did not win a single contested race.
There is talk among some local Republicans about making students vote in their hometowns instead of in Monroe County. This is a foolhardy strategery. First, efforts to prevent students from voting are unlikely to pass legislatively, and it would be difficult for these residency requirements to survive scrutiny by the courts. Finally, telling students "we do not want you to vote here" would only increase Republican losses in the student vote, hampering efforts to break the Democratic Party's stranglehold on county government.
What is the answer then? Hard work and good campaigning. Republicans are going to have to court the student vote more aggressively than ever before. Some Republican candidates did purchase advertisements in the Indiana Daily Student, but they are going to have to do more. When I ran for Bloomington Township Board in 2006, I spoke to the IU College Republicans and explained why township government matters to students. Republicans running for County Commissioner and County Council will need to do more of that.
Local campaigns also need student involvement. College Republicans are going to naturally gravitate to higher-profile races like Governor, President and Congress. If Monroe County Republicans want conservative students involved, they need to take proactive steps to make that happen. It would benefit both the CR's and the county party to have a closer relationship in local campaigns, would allow students to get some political experience in local politics and would allow students an opportunity to learn how local government works.
If I was running for county-wide office in 2010 or 2012, I would attend every meeting of the IU College Republicans and show up at tailgating for IU football home games to talk to students. I would be reaching out to the College Republicans to get students involved in my campaign. I would hold meetings in the dorms and Greek houses friendly to Republicans. I would go door-to-door in student neighborhoods.
Most importantly, Republicans need to realize that the 2010 campaign began two years ago, and the 2012 campaign began when the polls closed last Tuesday. This is something that Democrats understand very well, giving them the advantage of a head start. If we are serious about advocating for good government and getting qualified conservative Republicans elected in local government, we cannot sit back and do nothing in 2009 and then try to play catch up in 2010. Republicans need to lay the groundwork now for 2010 and 2012.