A quick poll on candidate loyalty by show of hand at the Feb. 25th Purdue College Republicans meeting revealed that support was split between three top contenders for the GOP primary. Several hands went up showing support for Rubio. A handful shot up for Cruz. And one proud hand at the meeting was raised high in support of GOP frontrunner and business mogul Donald Trump.
Purdue University’s College Republicans do not officially support any individual candidate as an organization, but one might find a surprising amount of conflicting opinions within the club’s ranks.
Alex Merrick, a freshman in industrial Engineering, was the sole Trump supporter at the meeting. Merrick said that Trump’s biggest strength is his ability to get the candidates talking about issues by speaking his mind first.
“Donald Trump is sort of leading the conversation,” Merrick said. “He knows how to take chances, even if some of his chances have failed, a lot of them have succeeded though. If you want to be a good president, you have to take chances.”
Merrick claimed that Trump has a natural advantage being a business tycoon, both from his knowledge of the economy and from his unflinching attitude when facing opponents.
“[Trump] is extremely competent in what he speaks. He’s not afraid of anyone. I believe that he will lead America over other countries and show American ideals. He won’t bow down to what other countries think.”
Spencer Schriner, a freshman in CNIT and a member of Purdue College Republicans, brashly disagreed with Merrick’s endorsement of Donald Trump. Schriner is a supporter of Republican candidate Ted Cruz, claiming that he is by far the most constitutional contender for the office.
“He’s more of a Reagan republican,” Schriner said. “He’s going to stand up and fight for the constitution. You listen to Trump, and he’s got some socialist ideas on healthcare. If you actually listen to what [Trump] says on healthcare in some of the debates, he sounds left of Bernie Sanders.”
Since Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s death, the most pressing issue facing the United States is clearly the state of our civil liberties, Schriner said.
“If we have the wrong person put in the Supreme Court…If we have another Ruth Bader Ginsburg, it tips the balance of the court toward the liberals,” he continued. “I definitely think we could see our First and Second Amendment rights taken away at some point.”
After being questioned on the merits of Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders’ economic policy goals, Schriner shook his head and laughed.
“He’s out there,” he said. “I’m don’t know if he knows how to do math, with some of his plans.”
Schriner said that Clinton and Sanders both appear to be engaged in an appeal to voters over who can adopt the most socialist policy. He criticized the two Democratic candidates; Hillary for her dishonesty and Sanders for his impracticality.
“If you look at Hillary Clinton, she’s got Wall Street paying for her campaign,” he said. “Hillary has no legs to stand on. Crony capitalism is a function of the Democrat party.”
“Socialism has, over the last 100 years, committed the most genocides out of any other ideology,” Schriner added. “I’m not saying that Bernie wants to commit mass murder in America, but if you look into the rhetoric, Marx and Sanders sound exactly the same. Hillary just masks it a little better.”
Rachel Louthan, a sophomore in Computer Graphics Technology, holds similar views as several of her other fellow college Republicans. Louthan believes that Cruz is stricter on immigration policy than Marco Rubio, who has been willing to concede to Democrats in prior congressional decisions.
“I like how Marco Rubio focuses a lot on social issues, but Ted Cruz is more consistent with going against the establishment, shrinking the government and cutting things that need to be cut,” Louthan said.
While no fan of Donald Trump’s abrasive confrontational tactics, Louthan voiced her concern for the slippery slope of political correctness that is growing more prevalent in modern culture.
“I think our freedoms are going to go. Especially our freedom of speech, which is kind of already going, because you see around colleges all these ‘safe spaces’…Whenever you go against the mainstream, it seems like you’re attacked. We just saw that recently with Purdue Students for Life.”
Cruz’s promise to defund planned parenthood appeals to Louthan, who said her Catholic faith drives her to believe that the most serious issue facing America today is the growing abortion industry and the crumbling of the institution of family. Cruz’s traditional stances on social politics will aid in the culture war that conservative Americans seem to be fighting with emergent liberal ideologies of our time, she said.
“A nation that kills its own youth is just evil. Along with that, I feel that the family is breaking apart. The institution of family is not being respected.”
“With Hillary, she is the most dishonest person in politics. She’s even flip-flopped on her own positions, such as feminism or gay marriage. She ought to be behind bars for Benghazi and the e-mail scandal. I don’t understand why she isn’t held accountable.”
Socialism fosters an entitlement mentality, Louthan said, which always ends up forcing more dependency on the government, and fewer personal freedoms.
“Both [Hillary and Sanders] have this anti-American sentiment. Like, we need to be ashamed of ourselves, and we need to be more like the rest of the world. It’s like collectivism, too; there’s no work ethic.”
Charles Larrivee, a Junior in History and an active member of Purdue College Republicans, offers his support for neither Trump nor Cruz.
“On many other issues like social issues, foreign policy, the economy, our relationship with Israel, Marco Rubio is a very strong conservative,” Larrivee said.
The best way to combat foreign policy tensions such as China’s aggressive expansion, the threat of ISIS, the Iran nuclear deal and the Ukrainian crisis is through the development of a strong military, Larrivee said. Marco Rubio has the most detailed and solidified plan out of any candidate, Republican or Democrat, to handle that task.
“Unlike Donald Trump, who has openly advocated for open and frankly genocidal war against Arabs in the Middle East, Marco Rubio understands that the American people probably would be tired of another open war in the middle east involving American lives,” Larrivee said. “However, he is prepared to take all steps short of war to ensure that American interests and allies in the region are protected.”
Aside from national security, Larrivee believes another important responsibility of the next president will be to steer the culture war back on course to favor social conservatives.
“I believe that reforming the culture in all aspects is the work of each of us as Christians and as conservative thinkers, changing hearts and minds one at a time,” Larrivee said. “But we can’t do that if we have a president who uses the power of his office, either by his bully pulpit, his power of appointing justices, or through executive orders, he constantly misuses that power to both betray the constitution and our whole Judeo Christian foundations.”
While Rubio is his first personal choice, Larrivee pressed the overall importance of a Republican entering the White House after this election. The results of Super Tuesday should make a significant impact on his views of the election overall.
“We cannot let Donald Trump win the Republican nomination,” Larrivee said. Should he win the election, he will betray everything the Republican party stands for, and should he lose, we cannot endure even four more years of Democratic foreign policy. If Marco Rubio should fold, Ted Cruz is a strong second to carry the conservative banner.”
With Super Tuesday fast approaching, the shift in balance of the pending GOP primary could very well change the stakes for the top candidates in the race.