By Hannah Hess, IowaPolitics.com
WEST DES MOINES — A chant of “Ron Paul” surged through Valley High School on
Tuesday, about seven hours before the start of the Iowa Caucus.
Some 700 high school seniors packed the bleachers for the two-hour “Rock the
Caucus” assembly, sponsored by Rock the Vote, a nonprofit group devoted to youth
The students heard final pitches from Republican presidential candidates Paul, a
U.S. representative from Texas; former Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum; and
Minnesota U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, as well as four of former Massachusetts
Gov. Mitt Romney’s sons — Tagg, Matt, Josh and Craig. Democratic Party
Chairwoman Sue Dvorsky spoke on behalf of President Barack Obama.
Dvorsky urged the crowd to show its support by caucusing for Obama, although he
is running unopposed for the party’s nomination. Iowa launched Obama to victory
Jan. 3, 2008, she said.
The students received voter-registration cards, allowing them to vote in the
Tuesday night caucus. Paul elicited the the most applause, and he was the only
candidate bestowed a chant.
“He’s the only man who, I think, speaks his mind,” said Alex Franks, 17, of West
Des Moines, one of the hundreds of students who attended the rally.
Franks said she plans to vote for Paul in a suburban Des Moines Republican
caucus as well as the general election, should he become the Republican nominee.
Iowa allows teens to vote in the caucuses provided they turn 18 in time for the
Franks said she likes the 12-term congressman’s libertarian views on freedom and
“I think we need to bring back the independence of our country, and I think he’s
doing a good job with that,” she said.
Paul on Tuesday promised to keep young people out of unnecessary combat, to
protect their privacy on the Internet and to restore the value of the dollar.
He touted an endorsement from pop music singer Kelly Clarkson. Paul said
Clarkson, the first “American Idol” winner, got a boost in record sales after
she gave him her support.
“Young people like individuals who will stick to principles, and in Washington,
sometimes the two parties mesh together …. and it’s not too infrequent
that I feel obligated to vote by myself,” Paul said during his 10-minute speech.
Santorum, who is seeing a surge in recent polls of probable Iowa Republican
caucus-goers, drew big applause during his address to the students.
Santorum placed third in an Insider Advantage poll of 729 probable Iowa
Republican voters conducted by the Georgia-based polling company Jan 1. He was
the first choice for 18 percent of the voters; Romney and Paul tied for first,
each registering 22 percent.
Surrounded by six of his seven children and his wife, Karen, Santorum pledged to
“restore the family.”
From the bleachers, three students waved Santorum’s “Faith, Family and Freedom”
Cassie Crose and Sierra Smith, both 18, of West Des Moines, said they would
support Romney in the caucuses, as their parents are caucusing for him.
Tagg Romney, the eldest of Romney’s son’s, asked how many of the students
planned to vote in the Republican caucuses. The crowd seemed divided.
“It’s pretty much split between Ron Paul or Obama,” said Conner Feldman, 18, of
Windsor Heights and a Ron Paul supporter.
The 2012 Iowa Democratic Caucuses begin 6:30 p.m. Tuesday; the Republican
Caucuses start at 7 p.m.
See photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/iowapolitics/sets/72157628702446791/
See video of Paul and youth supporters:
See the Insider Advantage poll: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/docs/2012/InsiderAdvantage_Iowa_0102.pdf