Wash. U. students change allegiance as Republican race continues

| Contributing Reporter

As the field of Republican candidates narrows, students at Washington University are struggling to choose their favorites as the race plays out among the four remaining candidates: Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul.

Freshman Kaitlin McTague used to support Michelle Bachmann but is now leaning toward Romney.

“The problem I have with Gingrich is, first and foremost, he’s been married three times. If the man cannot manage his family, how can we expect him to manage our country? Romney, on the other hand, has been married for 42 years and exhibits the leadership qualities necessary to be president,” McTague said.

Despite Gingrich’s troubles in his personal life, McTague acknowledges that Gingrich may be the Republican’s greatest weapon against incumbent President Barack Obama at this point.

“That being the biggest goal on the table, I could easily be persuaded to vote Gingrich,” McTague said.

Gingrich and Romney had a showdown in Monday’s debate at the University of South Florida in Tampa, Fla., where all four candidates waged personal attacks. Romney accused Gingrich of “influence peddling” because he worked for Freddie Mac as a healthcare policy advocate while receiving payments from health care companies.

It may be unclear who won the Florida debate, but Political Science professor Steven Smith noted it was a disappointed showing for Santorum and Paul.

Smith said this year’s Republican race is particularly interesting.

“Republicans are quite ambivalent about their candidates this year,” Smith said. “The momentum can shift very quickly as result of campaign ads, debates and other factors.”

The Florida primary will take place on Jan. 31, with 50 convention delegates at stake. Florida is known for being a swing state with a large and diverse constituency spread between very rural areas and metropolitan cities; it also has a large immigrant population.

While the Republican Party has yet to hone in on a particular candidate, Gingrich and Romney have emerged as frontrunners—each claiming victory in at least one primary.

Other Republican students have also been forced to change their allegiances. Junior Michael Rosengart, who worked for John Huntsman’s campaign, said he is disappointed in Huntsman’s choice to concede but believes it was the right choice considering the candidate’s small support base.

“Our party’s foremost goal needs to be to defeat President Obama and halt his job-killing agenda, so [Huntsman] stepping aside was the right move. My hope is that he’ll find a way to stay relevant over the next couple of years because I think he’ll make a first-class president one day,” Rosengart said.

Rosengart said he has yet to be sold by either Gingrich or Romney.

“What I do know is that either Governor Romney or Speaker Gingrich could be doing a better job as president than President Obama,” Rosengart said.

Freshman Dan Kronthal was also in favor of Huntsman before he dropped out. Kronthal now supports Romney.

“I think Romney has the business background and organization skills necessary to revitalize the economy,” Kronthal said. “I also just don’t trust Gingrich.”

The next primary, after Florida’s, will take place in Nevada on Feb. 4.

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