For our series First and Main, Morning Edition is traveling to contested counties in swing states to find out what is shaping voters' decisions this election season. The latest trip took us to Larimer County, Colo.
I'm embarrassed to admit that I don't have any memories of the presidential election that took place while I was in college. It was my freshman year, and President Clinton was running for re-election against former Republican Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas. Clinton won, in case you've forgotten.
It's not that I could have voted — my 18th birthday wasn't for another week or so. But I don't even remember being aware that there was an election going on — which is a far cry from the five students we spent time with on the Colorado State University campus in Fort Collins. Granted, they're all political science majors. But they're following their candidates' positions and policies closely, and weren't at all shy about sharing their opinions on presidential politics.
We sat down with these students — Democrats, Republicans and a libertarian — around a table in a seminar classroom in CSU's Political Science Department on a rainy September morning.
The two Republicans — Rachel Drechsler and Tyler Marr — were going to a campaign event later that morning for GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan. Because she was giving an introductory speech at the rally, Drechsler was dressed for the part, wearing a skirt and jacket and a pair of hot-pink heels. Both she and Marr seemed very enthusiastic about the Romney/Ryan ticket.
On the other side of the table were the two Democrats, Abby Harder and Carol Kennedy. While both say they believe that President Obama is still the best candidate, they admitted that they aren't as excited about him as they were in 2008 (even though only Harder was old enough to vote at that point).
Rounding out the group was Justin Rampy, the sole libertarian in the room. He's a Ron Paul supporter who said he hopes to send a message to both parties.
"To say that I'm not going to vote Republican or Democrat tells both parties that there are voters like me out there who are fed up voting for either party," he said.
Among the topics that came up was the increasing cost of education. Both Harder and Marr said they have smaller loans to supplement financial help they've received from their families. Of the five, only Rampy had significant student loan debt — which, as he pointed out, is a big burden to have when just entering the workforce.
Despite disagreements on how the rising cost of education should be addressed, all five students saw it as a problem — but not one that played a big role for them in this election.
The issue of women's rights also came up in discussion, and the majority of the students came down in favor of abortion rights. Drechsler recognized that her stance differed from that of her party's, but she said she felt that more important than the issue of abortion was making sure the economic needs of women are being met.
"I want a better future for my kids and for their kids and for everyone in America," she said. "And I think the way we're headed, that's not going to be the case. And so I think, as a woman, I just want to make sure that our well-being is taken care of."
In fact, the economy seemed to be the issue of most concern to all of the students. They were keenly aware that the current job market isn't a good one for newly minted college graduates, and they expressed worry over the size of the deficit.
Unsurprisingly, the Democrats and the Republicans stuck close to party lines on this subject. But while it's not the only issue they're voting on, it's certainly the one most prominent in their minds right now.
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